Introduction

The critically endangered Chatham Island pigeon or parea is restricted to the Chatham Islands. Although similar in appearance to the New Zealand pigeon, it is around 20% heavier, making it one of the world's heaviest pigeons.

Highlights

New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: Nationally Vulnerable
Population: Estimated to be over 250 in 2009 but likely to be larger
Found in: Forested areas particularly in the south of Chatham Island
Threats: Predation, habitat loss

Parea in flight. Photo: Dave Houston.
Parea in flight

Facts

Chatham Island pigeon/parea on ground. Photo: Dave Houston.
Chatham Island pigeon/parea

The Chatham Island pigeon or parea (Hemiphaga chathamensis) is one of two species of native pigeon in New Zealand.

20% heavier than the New Zealand pigeon, its dorsal plumage and upper breast is more purple and pearl-grey than its mainland counterpart, but it has the same white lower breast, shoulder straps and belly. The bill is red with and orange tip.

Parea fly with noisy wingbeats, and during the breeding season they perform conspicious display dives - flapping upwards from their perch and then stalling and diving sharply down. 

Parea feed on a wide range of leaves and fruit with hoho (Pseudopanax chathamicus) being particularly important. Parea spend considerable time on the ground grazing.

Landowners have helped protect the habitat of the parea by creating reserves and fencing remnant bush to keep out stock. Predator control has also been carried out. A survey found that the population has increased to around 500 birds, from a population low of 40 in the late 1980s.  

Sound recording

Chatham Island pigeon/parea song (MP3, 1,278K)
01:21 – Chatham Island pigeon/parea singing, eating berries, hopping between trees and occasionally flying.

Bird songs may be reused according to our copyright terms.

Threats

Parea chick remains. Photo: Dan Palmer.
Parea killed by cat

Habitat loss

Due to the loss of much of Chatham Island's original forest cover, parea are now restricted to the south-west of the island, in the Tuku Nature Reserve and adjacent covenants.

The 1238 ha Tuku Nature Reserve was donated to the Crown by Manuel and Evelyn Tuanui in 1983 and since its protection the condition of the forest has improved considerably providing more food and habitat for parea.

Predators

Parea spend considerable time on the ground grazing on leaves and fruit, making them an easy target for feral cats. Cats, possums and rats are also able to easily access parea nests which can often be in low vegetation or on the ground.

Our work

DOC undertakes cat, rat and possum control within the Tuku Nature Reserve and assists owners of adjacent Conservation Covenants to do the same. Ironically, traps set to protect parea by catching cats sometimes catch parea. Considerable effort is put into trap placement and understanding parea behavour in an effort to avoid this.

Surveys, carried out during the breeding season every five years, help DOC understand the population size and trend.

You can help

If you are travelling to the Chatham Islands, or transporting goods or livestock there, be careful that you don't introduce pest animals or plants or diseases that might threaten parea or other rare and endangered flora and fauna in this unique environment.

Sightings of parea outside the south-west Chathams are of interest and should be reported to the Chatham Islands DOC office.

Rekohu / Wharekauri / Chatham Island Office
Phone:   +64 3 305 0098
Address:   North Rd
Te One
Chatham Island
Email:   chathamislands@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
 
Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife. 

Help protect our native birds

When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
  • Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
  • Don't drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
  • Avoid visiting riverbeds early September to late January when river birds breed.
Other ways to help
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at dusk/dawn and at night.
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