Government ministers were served up kereru at an iwi leaders' hui two years ago, it's been revealed.
Amy Adams, Nathan Guy and Tariana Turia were at a meeting of around 40 iwi leaders at a central North Island marae in 2013 where kereru was on the menu, Radio New Zealand reports.
But Prime Minister John Key says the ministers were unaware kereru might have ended up on their plates.
"Whether they actually consumed it given they didn't know that it was kereru - and I'm sure they can't remember what they ate two years ago - I don't think you can say they actually ate it," he told reporters on Monday.
"When you go to a marae, it's usually communal dining with lots of dishes put in the middle, some of which people eat and some of which they don't, ranging from crayfish to kereru to chops to a whole bunch of other things."
A spokesman for the marae told Radio New Zealand the Department of Conservation had given them between three and five birds.
The feathers were used for weaving, while the bodies were saved for a special occasion.
Kereru, the native wood pigeon, have been protected by law since 1912.
They are not classified as threatened but DOC says pest control is needed for populations to increase or avoid decline.
Northland iwi leader Sonny Tau is facing charges after he was allegedly caught with five dead kereru.