A kererū raised in captivity nearly 30 years ago before suddenly vanishing from his refuge has made a surprising reappearance.
Thought to be one of the oldest pigeons alive, Pidge returned to get a little help with a health crisis.
"He was either released or quite possibly released himself back in 1996," Kiwi Hatchery manager Emma Bean said.
Pidge's surprise return was discovered after staff noticed a bedraggled and confused kererū snacking away on some weeds.
"It was odd that I was so close to it, it wasn't concerned," Rainbow Springs wildlife assistant manager Thomas Knight said.
Pidge was unfazed even as a person using a leaf blower wandered past.
As fate would have it, the chance encounter with the bird - and a worn-out tether dangling from his leg - revealed his mysterious past.
"It was a bit of a 'wow' moment," he said. "I didn't expect it because we hadn't lost any recently, but yeah, it was a lot longer ago than I've been here."
Pidge has since been nursed back to health and is showing positive signs of making a full recovery.
"We've kept him in a special rehabilitation brooder so that he is protected and not too spooked by anything so he's still got natural light coming in, but he's able to rest and recover," Bean said. "He's been self-feeding all this time and he really does enjoy his kai."
Kererū typically live to around 21 years of age. Pidge will celebrate his 30th birthday next March.
While he's set to spend his retirement with another kererū, there could be more to his tale.
"It could be that he's got a partner out there as well so when he goes back out to the aviary, we'll have close observations on him and make sure that we're not separating any long-term loves," Bean said.