The Kakapo is a large, flightless parrot. This native of
New Zealand is a nocturnal ground
dweller. It’s on the endangered species
list due to colonization by Polynesians and Europeans who brought cats,
ferrets, rats and weasels to the island in the 1800’s. Up until that time, the Maori, an indigenous
people in New Zealand,
used the bird for food and its feathers for clothing.
This parrot has finely blotched yellow-green plumage, a large gray beak, short legs and large wings. It easily camouflages itself in the native foliage but as of March 2014, there were only 123 of these birds left in the world. A conservation program was started in the 1980’s when the remaining birds were moved to three predator-free islands, Codfish, Anchor and Little Barrier.
New Zealand’s government has provided two other
large , Resolution and Secretary, which
are subjects of a large-scale restoration project with ecosystems that will be
suitable for the Kakapo. Fiordland Islands
The rotund adult Kakapo can measure as much as 23 to 25 inches and weigh between 2 to 9 pounds making it the largest and heaviest parrot. An interesting fact is that this bird lacks a keel bone (sternum) that anchors the flight muscles of other birds, thus making them flightless. These parrots have an owl-like face and, as with most bird species, the male is a bit more colorful.
The Kakapo has a well-developed sense of smell that helps it forage for food in the dark, but it also emits a strong, musty odor that enables predators to find it easily. Maybe this also explains its dwindling numbers.
This parrot is an excellent climber and is able to scale large trees easily and then parachute from them to other trees or the ground. They have strong legs and can jog quickly covering up to a mile in search of food, or as much as three miles for mating.
The diet of the Kakapo mainly consists of native plants, seeds, fruits, pollen and even the sap of trees.
During mating season, males fight each other for the best territories. Once in their territories they dig shallow bowls into the ground all around their area and stay there moving from bowl to bowl making mating calls all night for up to four months. During this time the male may lose half of his body weight.
Once a female has arrived, the ritual begins with the male turning his back on her, making clicking sounds with his beak and walking backwards toward her with wings spread. After mating the female returns to her home territory to lay her eggs and take care of the chicks. The male stays in hopes of attracting another female.
The female usually lays two eggs that hatch within 30 days. The young chicks stay with the mother until about 6 months of age, although they can leave the nest after 3 months. The mother must forage for food at night leaving the nest unprotected, so this also has an impact on the survival rate of the Kakapo.
The Kakapo is a long-lived bird with a lifespan from 95 to 120 years. They don’t start to breed until at least 5-years-old and most of the time it’s later than that.