Sunday, August 6, 2017


The Kakapo is also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless, nocturnal, ground-dwelling parrot endemic to New Zealand. The kakapo was originally described by English ornithologist George Robert Gray in 1845. And the name translates in English as the Māori terms kākā ("parrot") + pō ("night"). The Kakapo is a classic example of evolution on an isolated island, and has a numerous characteristic features that make this species unique. The kakapo is the only flightless parrot in the world. It is also the heaviest parrot known and is possibly the longest-lived.
Adult kakapos have beautiful mossy green plumage mottled with black or dark brownish grey, blending well with native vegetation. The breast and flank are yellowish-green streaked with yellow. The belly, undertail, neck and face are predominantly yellowish streaked with pale green and weakly mottled with brownish-grey. The kakapo has a conspicuous facial disc of fine feathers resembling the face of an owl, and the beak is surrounded by delicate vibrissae, which the bird uses to sense the ground for navigation as it walks with its head lowered. One of the most striking characteristics of the kakapo is its pleasant and powerful musty odor.
Relative Size
The kakapo is a large, rotund parrot; the adult can measure from 58 to 64 cm (23 to 25 in) in length, and weight can vary from 0.95 to 4 kg (2 to 9 lb) at maturity. Males are larger than females. They are the heaviest living species of parrot; while the largest males attain much heavier weights than any other extant parrot, kakapos average about 400 g (14 oz) more than a hyacinth macaw.
Did You Know
           Both the Māori and early European settlers kept kakapos as pets. Even wild kakapos are known to approach, climb on, and preen people. George Edward Grey, the English ornithologist who first described the kakapo in 1845, once wrote that his pet kakapo’s behavior towards him and his friends was “more like that of a dog than a bird.” Kakapos live life at a slow pace. Males don’t start breeding until they are about four years old, and females around six years of age. Their life expectancy is over 60 years.
Scientific Classification
Other Names
Critically Endangered 
Year Published: 2016; Date Assessed: 2016-10-01; Assessor: BirdLife International. This species only survives as a tiny population on three offshore islands. With the initiation of intensive management from 1995 onwards, numbers are now increasing, but the population trend over the last three generations is declining.
The population comprises of at least 109 mature adults and 153 birds in total in 2016, although the current population is now increasing, it has declined by >80% in the last 100 years that is within less than 3 generations.
Since then birds have been moved between predator-free Islands in Fiordland. Kakapo now occur only on forested islands, though they previously appeared to have inhabited a wide range of vegetation types including tussock lands, scrublands and coastal areas. It also inhabited forests, including those dominated by podocarps, beeches, tawa, and rata. In Fiordland, areas of avalanche and slip debris with regenerating and heavily fruiting vegetation. The earlier evidences suggest that the bird had inhabited a wide range of habitat types, including lowland Podocarp forests, Nothofagus forests and subalpine scrublands.
The Kakapo is endemic to New Zealand, and was once widespread within the North, South and Stewart Islands. Although it disappeared from most of its original range in the wake of human colonization, the species remained abundant in Fiordland and some other higher-rainfall and more sparsely inhabited parts of South Island until the early twentieth century. At present this bird is located on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou, Anchor Island, and Little Barrier Island/Hauturu-o-Toi and is considered extinct in its natural range.
Occurring Countries
New Zealand
The kakapo has a very small gizzard compared to other birds of their size. It is generally herbivorous, eating native plants, seeds, fruits, pollen and even the sapwood of trees.Kakapo’s are the only flightless bird that has a lek breeding system, where males loosely gather in an arena and compete with each other to attract females. To attract females, males make loud, low-frequency (below 100 Hz) booming calls by inflating a thoracic sac. They start with low grunts, which increase in volume as the sac inflates. After a sequence of about 20 loud booms, the male kakapo emits a high-frequency, metallic "ching" sound. Although the lekking lasts for about three months, mating occurs mainly between January and early March. The males and females meet only to mate.
One to four eggs are laid and all parental care is performed by the female, the usual incubation period is 30 days and the chicks leave the nest at approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age. Because the kakapo is long-lived, with an average life expectancy of 95 years and the maximum at about 120 years, it tends to have an adolescence before it starts breeding. Males do not start to boom until about 5 years of age and females between 9 and 11 years old.
Apart from the two surviving New Zealand raptors, the New Zealand falcon and swamp harrier, there were two other birds of prey in pre-human New Zealand: Haast's eagle and Eyles' harrier were the only natural predators. The mammalian predators such as domestic cats, dogs, stoats and rats which were brought and released by early European settlers in 1800 is the main reason for the declaiming population. The kakapo is particularly vulnerable to predation due to its strong scent, habit of freezing when threatened, and especially its ground nesting behavior and fightlessness.
The Maori, who were the first human settlers of New Zealand, hunted kakapo for their feathers and meat; the Polynesian dog and rat introduced by the Maori also preyed upon this species. The kakapo was a very successful species in pre-human New Zealand, and one of the reasons for this was their set of adaptations to effectively avoid predation from native birds of prey. Mammalian predators, in contrast to birds, rely on their sense of smell and hearing to find prey and often hunt by night. The kakapo's adaptations to avoid avian predation have thus been useless against its new enemies.
Conservation Measures
In 1891, the New Zealand government set aside Resolution Island in Fiordland as a nature reserve. And by 1897 more than 200 kakapos were moved to Resolution Island. By 1900, however, stoats had swum to Resolution Island and colonized it; they wiped out the nascent kakapo population within 6 years. At present, Kakapo are legally protected in New Zealand and listed on CITES Appendix I. All individuals are radio-tagged, and tracked throughout the year. Invasive species (stoats, possums, rats, cats and dogs) have been eradicated from all islands where kakapo are now present. Translocations have been carried out to take advantage of locally abundant food supplies and increase the frequency of breeding attempts.
Interesting Video
Sirocco the kākāpō conservation superstar -
Conservation Website

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