Kakapo

A huge yet flightless parrot is special in the Māori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) folklore

Kimberley Collins

A remarkable bird endemic to New Zealand, known for its peculiar set of characteristics that distinguish it from other parrot species. This nocturnal and flightless bird has captivated the interest of ornithologists and conservationists worldwide due to its unique biology and critically endangered status.

The Kakapo’s plumage is a mossy green with yellow and black variations, providing excellent camouflage in its forest environment. While its feathers are not suited for flight, they are beautifully adapted to blend seamlessly with the ground foliage. The Kakapo’s facial disc of fine feathers is reminiscent of an owl, which aids in its nocturnal hearing and gives it an owl-like appearance.

The bird’s wings, though flightless, are not useless. They are used for balance and support when the Kakapo climb trees or jog walks on the forest floor. Their strong legs and feet are highly adapted for their terrestrial lifestyle, allowing them to be exceptional climbers and to traverse long distances on foot.

The Kakapo is one of the world’s most endangered birds, with a known population numbering around 200 individuals as of the last count. Intensive conservation efforts, including close monitoring and management, have been implemented to protect and recover the species. These efforts are critical, as the Kakapo’s population has been decimated due to introduced predators, such as cats and stoats, habitat destruction, and historical overhunting.

The slow breeding rate, combined with predation and habitat loss, has led to the dramatic decline of the Kakapo population. The future of the species is uncertain, but there is hope through the dedicated work of conservation programs like the Kakapo Recovery Programme, which employs innovative strategies such as supplementary feeding, artificial insemination, and intensive monitoring to increase the birds’ numbers.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
New Zealand
149
Official estimate
CR
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No