The kakapo is a big, flightless, nocturnal parrot that breeds in leks. It is a real oddity. It is also critically endangered, and conservationists are paying a lot of attention to it. Before people came, it was common in the forests of New Zealand. However, introduced mammals hunted kākāpō to the point where only about 50 birds were left in the mid-1990s.
The whole kākāpō population has been moved to islands without predators, and people have been helping them at every stage of their lives. This is the reason for their steady rise in numbers. Kakapo have no close relatives.
A large kakapo parrot species living in the forest can’t fly. Its face looks like that of an owl. Kakapo is moss green with yellow and black spots on top and moss green with more yellow spots on the bottom. The legs and feet are also grey, but the soles are pale.
Voice: Males use a deep booming call (“booming”) and a loud wheezing call (“chinging”) to attract mates to their leks. Both males and females make a loud, high-pitched streak call.
Similar species: Only the kaka and kea could be mistaken for kakapos, but their moss-green colour, large size, inability to fly, and nighttime habits make them easy to tell apart. There are also very few places where kakapo are known to live, so there isn’t much chance that they were misidentified.
What Does Kakapo Eat?
Kakapos are entirely vegetarian. Flowers, fern fronds, leaves, buds, bark, rhizomes, bulbs, fruit, roots, and seeds are all things they eat. Diet varies seasonally.
Where Does Kakapo Live?
Once found all over New Zealand, the number and range of kakapo bird started to shrink after the Maori arrived. Around 1930, they stopped living on the North Island but stayed longer in the wetter parts of the South Island. In Fiordland, the last birds died out in the late 1980s. In 1977, a group of fewer than 200 birds was found on Stewart Island. This group was also going down because cats were eating them.
The whole community was relocated in the 1980s and 1990s to three islands in the Marlborough and Hauraki Gulfs: Whenua Hou/Codfish Island off the coast of Stewart Island, Maud Island, and Hauturu/Little Barrier Island. Birds have been relocated between Whenua Hou, Maud Island, and Hauturu since then, as well as between the previously predator-infested islands of Chalky and Anchor in Fiordland and the three previously mentioned islands in the Cook Archipelago. Today, you can only find kakapo in forested islands, although previously, they were found in a wider variety of plant communities.
How Many Kakapos Are Left In The World?
In June 2020, 210 bird species were known. They all have radio transmitters, which are carefully watched and managed.
Threats and conservation
Adult kakapo is at risk of being eaten by cats and stoats, and rats can kill their eggs and chicks. Only the females can lay eggs and raise chicks. Because they have to spend a lot of time away from the nest to eat, eggs and chicks are easy targets for predators when the nest is unattended.
It takes a long time to raise a chick, and the nest gets stinky and easy for predators to find. Away from their nests, kakapo tends to freeze and rely on their camouflage colouring to keep them safe from danger. It worked when the main predators were birds that hunted by sight, but it doesn’t work at all when the main predators are mammals that hunt by smell.
In the 1890s, people tried to protect kakapos from introduced predators by moving them to Resolution Island. However, stoats swam to the island and ate the kakapo. In the 1980s and 1990s, the kakapo’s decline was stopped by moving them to Maud Island, which had no predators at all, and to Hauturu and Whenua Hou, which only had more.
Latest Conservation Efforts
But the number of birds didn’t start to grow until more were taken off the islands and the birds were managed more closely. In intensive management, the birds were moved from island to island, nests were protected from rats, adults were given extra food, eggs and chicks were closely watched, and any chicks that didn’t make it were rescued and raised by hand.
Kakapo parrot don’t have a lot of different genes, so they don’t have many babies. Managing matings and using artificial insemination to stop further genetic loss has been a big part of conservation efforts in recent years. Kakapo is kept on three islands: Whenua Hou, Anchor Island, and Hauturu. In 2016, they had chicks on all three islands, and 32 of them lived.
How Does Kākāpō Breed?
Kakapo bird breed in the summer and fall, but only when there is a lot of fruit. On islands in the south of New Zealand, they have babies every two to four years when the rimu trees bear fruit. In other parts of New Zealand, they probably nested when the southern beech trees put out their seeds, but no one knows what makes them breed in Hauturu and other northern places.
Kakapo are lek breeders. Males make calls from track-and-bowl systems to get females to come to them so they can mate. Males have nothing to do with eggs being laid or raising chicks. The nests lie on or under the ground, or a lot of plants hide them. The one to four eggs are put in a shallow depression in the soil or rotting wood, which is turned over and over before and while the eggs are being raised.
Behaviour And Ecology
Kakapo bird are only active at night and live alone in the same area for many years. They look for food on the ground and in trees. They often jump out of trees & flap their wings, but the best they can do is fall in a controlled way.
How Many Kakapo Are Left?
The kakapo is critically endangered. There are only 252 adult kakapoo left, and all of them are named and tagged. They live on four small islands off the coast of New Zealand that have been cleared of predators.
Why Did Kakapo Go Extinct?
They are still around. The kakapo used to live all over New Zealand. It was the biggest species of parrot, couldn’t fly, ate plants, and only came out at night. But changes in the environment, the loss of habitat, and the introduction of predatory mammals caused the population to plummet to only 51 in 1995.
Can A Kakapo Fly?
The kakapo is a large green parrot with a face and walks that look like an owl’s. They can’t fly, but they are good at climbing.
Parvaiz Yousuf is a senior SEO writer and editor with an experience of over 6 years, who also doubles up as a researcher. With an MSc zoology degree under his belt and possessing complete Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge, he works as a science journalist for a US-based website and Asian Scientist (A Singapore-based magazine). He also works as Director of Wetland Research Centre, Wildlife Conservation Fund YPJK since 2018. Besides, he has several publications to his name on cancer biology and biochemistry in some reputed journals such as Nature & International Journal of Molecular Sciences, & magazines such as Science Reporter, BUCEROS BNHS, and has an abiding interest in ornithology. He also worked as a Research Associate for JK Policy Institute.