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The sky above Dunedin is alive with kererū (native wood pigeons) thanks in no small way to conservationist Nik Hurring.
Mrs Hurring has been nursing injured kererū back to health for 20 years and her passion was honoured with an Old Blue Award from Forest and Bird New Zealand last week.
Accident-prone kererū from all over the South Island find their way to her special nursing aviary at Green Island where they are given daily care and time to recover before being released. The birds often come to grief after mistakenly flying into house or car windows.
At the moment she has four birds in care - a young bird that fell out of its nest in a storm in May, a shy pigeon that crashed, a grumpy one in isolation for being a bully and ''Bill'' from Wellington.
Bill has been sent down from Wellington Zoo to ''find out what it is like to be wild pigeon'' - the wild birds do not usually get names.
''He was really little when he was first brought in [to the zoo] and has become very imprinted on people.
''He was born in the wild and the best thing for him is to go free again rather than spend his life as an advocacy bird.''
She said she was ''stunned'' to be given the Old Blue Award given the number of projects that were going on in conservation.
She was awarded the prize at the society's annual meeting on Saturday.
Her success rate with birds is good, with many of the 60-80 birds that come through her care each year surviving to be released.
She said hundreds of the birds had been released back into the wild. Some had even returned to her care after a second mishap - recognisable by the distinctive metal tag they received.
The Dunedin branch of Forest and Bird supports Mrs Hurring's kereru clinic with its running costs, using funds from the Dr Marjorie Barclay Trust.
- by Dan Hutchinson