Kokako: Maui’s best feathery friend
Our kokako is part of the very, very old wattlebird family. A wattle is a coloured flap of skin that hangs beneath the beak. The kokako's cousins, the extinct huia and the saddleback also have wattles. Theirs are red-brown, while our kokako has bright blue ones.
In Maori legend, the kokako is one of Maui’s best friends. When Maui lassoed the sun to slow it down, the kokako brought water to Maui in his wattles. In return Maui gave him long legs, and from that day the kokako became a great hopper!
Kokako are in trouble
Kokako are forest birds and used to live throughout New Zealand . Now they are very, very rare. There are two reasons for this:
- A lot of their forest has been cut down to make farmland.
- Kokako are easy prey for pests. They can't fly very well. They prefer to run up tree trunks and along branches and then glide to another tree.
Their main enemies are - you've guessed it - stoats, rats and possums. These animals hunt at night, raiding nest and eating eggs, chicks and even the mother bird sitting on the nest!
There were two sub-species of kokako – one in the South Island and one in the North. The South Island kokako was last seen in 1967. It is probably extinct although some people believe that it is alive and sightings have come from Fiordland to Kahurangi National Park. The Department Of Conservation has sent people out to look but they still haven’t been able to find it.
Kokako - Coming to a Forest Near You.
In the North Island, kokako only survive in forests which are free of pests. People are working hard to control pests and, in forests where they have been successful, kokako can be brought back to live. And to make them feel at home, people have found that if they play a welcoming song, the kokako are more likely to stay put.
So if you live in the North island, chances are - kokako may be coming to a forest near you. Just listen out for their haunting song.
- Kokako sing a beautiful, haunting song, like deep bells ringing.
- Kokako in different forests sing different melodies.
- Their song carries for a great distance. In the early morning, a pair may sing a duet for up to half an hour with other kokako joining in to form a "bush choir".
- Male and female are similar in colour and size (weighing about 230 grams).
- Pairs defend a territory of about 8 hectares by singing and chasing away other kokako.
- They eat leaves, shoots, flowers, fruit and invertebrates.
- Kokako can live for up to 40 years.