Once kākāpō existed throughout New Zealand, and were one of our most common birds. Now they are one of our rarest.
There are only 126 kākāpō in the whole world - and they all have names. Some of them have funny names like Sinbad, Flossie, JEM, Smoko and Richard Henry.
Most kākāpō live on two small islands - Whenua Hou (Codfish island) which is South of Stewart Island, and Anchor Island which is in Dusky Sound, Fiordland. In 2012, nine kākāpō were moved to a new home on Hauturu/Little Barrier Island, near Auckland.
In 2014, one of the kākāpō who had been moved to Hauturu successfully raised a chick! Only two years after being moved to the island, this success made scientists very happy.
Our giant, nocturnal parrot has evolved some unusual habits that make it very special:
First off, they generally only breed in years when the rimu tree or kahikatea tree is fruiting (every 2-3 years). That’s so they can get super-fat, so that they can run around feeding their chicks.
When they breed it is quite a performance.
The male makes a special bowl, and then fills his chest pouch with air and then lets out an almighty ‘boom’. This boom carries for up to five kilometres, and attracts females from across the land.
The female will then watch him boom, and decide whether he would be a good mate. This type of mating is called 'lek mating' - it's when birds use an area to perform for courtship.
Trouble is, the male kākāpō isn’t a stay-at-home type - the female does all the work. She incubates the eggs and then when they’ve hatched she has to go and find food, leaving her chicks alone. This makes them an easy midnight snack for predators, such as rats, possums and stoats.
The kākāpō cannot fly! But they are very good climbers, and use their wings for balancing. On the ground, they sort of shuffle-hop about the forest floor.
Kākāpō are strict vegetarians. They eat the fruit of rimu, kahikatea and mingimingi, the seeds of manuka and leatherwood (Olearia colensoi) and various shoots. In summer and autumn they drink rata nectar, and in winter they eat sun orchid bulbs.
Sirocco, a very special kākāpō
One kākāpō is very special indeed - Sirocco. Sirocco was raised by humans, and this made him feel very happy around people - in fact, he prefers us to other kākāpō ! While it would be a disaster if all kākāpō felt this way, it is useful that Sirocco is so relaxed, because it means he has become a kakapo 'ambassador' traveling New Zealand, giving people an up-close kākāpō experience. (If you want a chance to meet Sirocco, you can look here to find out his travel schedule!)
The kākāpō is the ...
• Heaviest parrot in the world.
• Only flightless parrot in the world!
• Only nocturnal parrot in the world!
• Only parrot where the male has inflatable thoracic sacs.
• Only parrot to have a lek mating system.
If there was a "Guinness Book of Bird Records", the kākāpō would be a star!
The kākāpō is a very special parrot…
- It is related to our forest parrot, the kākā, and our mountain parrot, the kea. Apart from that it has no close relatives in the world!
- The kākāpō lives to a mighty age for a bird, living to over 60 years old.
- Kākāpō feathers are very soft and moss-green in colour, with some black on its back and yellow-green feathers on its belly.
- The kākāpō is a good colour for hiding, but enemies can often find them because of their strong smell.
- Unfortunately, the kakāpō was very yummy, and settlers used to eat it. Kākāpō were not only hunted, they also were effectively booted off their land, when their forests were replaced with grass, and later, cows and sheep.
How can I help?
- Luckily, there are many people and organisations working to make sure kākāpō are around for a long time. Kākāpō Recovery is the main group helping kākāpō - and Forest & Bird is a major supporter. So, just by being a KCC member, you are helping kākāpō!
- You can find out more about kākāpō , (including all 126 names!), on the Kākāpō Recovery website.