Rhynochetos – Kagu

Very rare, ground-dwelling bird found in the islands of New Caledonia

This species is an emblem of New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific, and is notable for its ghostly appearance and distinctive behavior. The Kagu’s evolutionary ties to the Sunbittern and tropicbirds are fascinating, suggesting a lineage that dates back millions of years and a history of geographic isolation that has led to its unique adaptations.

Standing at approximately 55 cm (22 inches) in height, the Kagu possesses an ethereal beauty with its predominantly ash-grey plumage that allows it to blend seamlessly with the foggy forests of its habitat. Its plumage is not only a marvel of camouflage but also serves as a waterproof layer, which is crucial in the often-misty environments of New Caledonia. The orange-red bill and legs of the Kagu provide a striking contrast to its subdued body color, and the long crest feathers that can be erected add an additional element of visual intrigue to this already captivating bird.

The Kagu is a flightless bird with reduced and unused wings for flight. This lack of flight has led to a life spent mostly on the forest floor, where the Kagu exhibits remarkable foraging behavior. It is known to tap its feet on the ground, likely to disturb potential prey such as earthworms, insects, and snails, which form the bulk of its diet. Like ‘worm charming,’ this behavior is a unique foraging technique among birds. The Kagu is also opportunistic, consuming a variety of small vertebrates like lizards and even small fish when the opportunity arises.

Kagus are also known for their incredible vocalizations, which include a range of whistles, barks, and hoots. These calls are used for communication between individuals and are most often heard during the early morning hours. Their vocal repertoire is crucial for maintaining territories and attracting mates, especially given their solitary and somewhat territorial nature.