Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus)
Species: S. habroptilus
Binomial name: Strigops habroptilus
Common names: Kakapo, kākāpō, Owl parrot, Night parrot,
Strigops habroptilus (Kakapo) is New Zealand’s rare and unique, endemic, ground-dwelling, herbivorous, night parrot. It is one of the rarest parrots in the world; they're listed internationally as a critically endangered species. Once found throughout New Zealand, kakapo started declining in range and abundance after the arrival of Maori. They disappeared from the North Island by about 1930, but persisted longer in the wetter parts of the South Island. The last birds died out in Fiordland in the late 1980s. A population of less than two hundred birds was discovered on Stewart Island in 1977, but this population was also declining due to cat predation. During the 1980s and 1990s the entire known population was transferred to Codfish Island off the coast of Stewart Island, Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Since then birds have been moved between Codfish, Maud and Little Barrier Islands as well as to and from newly predator-free Chalky and Anchor Islands in Fiordland. A total of 125 birds were known in September 2012. All carry radio transmitters and are intensively monitored and managed. It is possible there are a few birds remaining on Stewart Island, and perhaps even a few in Fiordland.
Kakapo plumage upperparts are a moss green colour mottled with yellow and black. It has a pale owl-like face with a distinct facial disc of sensory, vibrissa-like feathers, a large grey beak, short grey legs, large feet, and wings and a tail of relatively short length. They are entirely vegetarian feeding on leaves, buds, flowers, ferns, fruit and seeds.
They forage on the ground and since they are heavy and short winged to get airborne they will climb a tree reaching hights of > 20 m. They will often tumble out of tree trying to fly by flapping their wings, but at best manage it is a controlled plummet.
The non flying Kakapo has only short wings for their size and they lack a pronounced keel bone (sternum) that anchors the flight muscles of other birds. Unlike other species of land birds, Kakapo can accumulate a large amount of body fat for energy storage, making it the world’s heaviest parrot and it’s possibly the world’s oldest living bird. They are visibly sexually dimorphic in body size, growing up to 58 - 64 cm in length, with the males weighing 2 - 4 kg and the females lighter at 1 - 2.5 kg. They have a low basal metabolic rate and have no male parental care, and is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek (aggregation of males) breeding system. The males compete for 'calling posts' specially dug-out bowls in the earth and call ("boom") each night in summer months trying to attract a female. This low-frequency mating boom travels over several kilometres. It is the only parrot to have an inflatable thoracic air sac.
A Kakapo nest is a shallow depression in the soil or litter under a vegetation cover or in a natural cavity. 1 to 4 eggs are laid and these are looked after by the female.
Like many other New Zealand bird species, the kakapo was historically important to the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, appearing in many of their traditional legends and folklore. It was hunted and used as a resource by Māori, both for its meat as a food source and for its feathers, which were used to make highly valued pieces of clothing. It was also sometimes kept as a pet.
Click link for BBC Kakapo video
Department of Conservation worker with chicks.
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