Kaka (Nestor meridionalis)
Species: N. meridionalis
Binomial name: Nestor meridionalis
Common name: Nestor meridionalis, New Zealand Kaka, Kaka, Kākā, Bush parrot,
Nestor meridionalis is a New Zealand parrot endemic to the native forests of New Zealand. It is a medium sized parrot, measuring 45 cm in length and weighing from 390 to 560 g, with an average of 452 g.
It is closely related to the Kea, but has darker plumage and is more arboreal. The forehead and crown are greyish-white and the nape is greyish-brown. The neck and abdomen are more reddish, while the wings are more brownish. Both sub-species have a strongly patterned brown/green/grey plumage with orange and scarlet flashes under the wings; color variants which show red to yellow coloration especially on the breast are sometimes found.
This group of parrots is unusual, retaining more primitive features lost in most other parrots, because it split off from the rest around 100 million years ago.
The New Zealand Kaka lives in lowland and mid-altitude native forest. Its strongholds are currently the offshore reserves of Kapiti Island, Codfish Island and Little Barrier Island. It is breeding rapidly in the mainland island sanctuary at Zealandia (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary), with over 300 birds banded since their reintroduction in 2002.
Kaka are mainly arboreal and occupy mid to high canopy. Often seen flying across valleys or calling from the top of emergent trees. They are very gregarious and move in large flocks often containing Kea where present.
The New Zealand Kaka eats fruits, berries, seeds, flowers, buds, nectar, sap, plants and invertebrates. It uses its strong beak to shred the cones of the kauri tree to obtain the seeds. It has a brush-tipped tongue with which it feeds on nectar, and it uses its strong beak to cruch up seeds and extract grubs, especially the grubs of the Huhu beetle. They even tap sweet sap from trees by making deep incisions in the bark.
Eggs photographed on display at Zealandia, Wellington.
New Zealand Kaka make their nests in hollow trees, laying clutches of 2 to 4 eggs in late winter. Both parents assist in feeding the chicks. In a good fruiting year pairs can double clutch often utilising the same nest hole for the second clutch. It is unusual for a pair to raise more than three chicks in a clutch.
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