Saving the Kōkako

A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa

A celebration of the kōkako which is an endangered native bird living in NZ forests.

Kōkako, Wattlebirds, birds, native birds, conservation, engangered, extinct

A memorable moment was an intermediate school trip to see the kōkako. We awakened early in the morning at our Waitomo camp and set off on foot through the native bush to catch sight of the kōkako. We spotted one foraging in the tree-top branches, saw its blue wattles and heard its distinctive sound. (Listen to DoC: Kōkako song.) With numbers declining over the decades due to deforestation and predators. conservation projects have been reintroducing the kōkako to various locations in the North Island and outlying islands.      

"In Māori myth, the kōkako filled its wattles with water and brought it to Maui as he fought the sun. Maui rewarded the bird by making its legs long and slender, enabling it to bound through the forest with ease."  (Extract from DoC.)  

Image: Kokako numbers on the rise

The kökako belongs to the NZ wattlebirds family

NZ wattlebirds include North & South Island saddleback and the extinct huia. Together they form the Callaeidae family.

Kokako numbers on the rise

TV3

Image: And the Bird of the Year is...

Crowned Forest & Bird’s 2016 Bird of the Year

The blue-wattled crow received 3,614 votes whch was more than a thousand votes ahead of its nearest rival, the kea.

And the Bird of the Year is...

Radio New Zealand

Image: 50 NZ Dollar showing Entoloma hochstelleri, Blue Mushroom

Appears on reverse side of NZ $50 note

Different photos of the kōkako have appeared on new banknote designs.

50 NZ Dollar showing Entoloma hochstelleri, Blue Mushroom

Kete New Plymouth

Image: North Island Kokako (above) / South Island Kokako

Kōkako were common in forests throughout NZ in the early 1900s

North Island Kokako (above) / South Island Kokako

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Image: Keulemans, John Gerrard 1842-1912 :Blue-wattled crow, Glaucopis wilsoni. Orange-wattled crow, Glaucopis cinerea. (Two-thirds natural size). / J. G. Keulemans delt. & lith. [Plate I. 1888].

Deforestation & predation led to declining numbers

Predators include ship rats, possums, stoats and cats.

Keulemans, John Gerrard 1842-1912 :Blue-wattled crow, Glaucopis wilsoni. Orange-wattled crow, Glaucopis cinerea. (Two-thirds natural size). / J. G....

Alexander Turnbull Library

North Island kōkako: At risk - recovering

For further information, see New Zealand Birds Online: North Island Kōkako

Image: Kōkako, North Island

North Island kōkako (Callaeas wilsoni)

A blue-grey body, a black mask & small, rich blue wattles that arise from the base of the bill and sit under the throat

Kōkako, North Island

Puke Ariki

Image: North Island Kokako, Callaeas wilsoni

Conservation status: At Risk – Recovering

The North Island kōkako population has increased from c.330 pairs in 1999 to c.1595 in 2017 due to pest control.

North Island Kokako, Callaeas wilsoni

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Image: Kokako_Release_3Min.mov

Small populations now exist in North Island

Areas include: Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Te Urewera, South Auckland and Northland.

Kokako_Release_3Min.mov

Forest and Bird

South Island kōkako: Assumed extinct

 For further information, see New Zealand Birds Online: South Island Kōkako. 

Image: South Island Kokako. Callaeas cinereus. From the series: Extinct Birds of New Zealand.

South Island kōkako (Callaeas cinerea)

A blue-grey body, a black mask & small, orange wattles that arise from the base of the bill and sit under the throat

South Island Kokako. Callaeas cinereus. From the series: Extinct Birds of New Zealand.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Image: South Island Kokako, Callaeas cinerea

Conservation status: Data deficient

South Island Kokako, Callaeas cinerea

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Image: Search for the South Island kokako

Assumed extinct as no confirmed sightings

Search for the South Island kokako

Radio New Zealand

Image: South Island Kokako, Callaeas cinerea
South Island Kokako, Callaeas cinerea

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Image: South Island Kokako, Callaeas cinerea
South Island Kokako, Callaeas cinerea

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Characteristics

Image: Callaeas cinereus, Kōkako, Kokako, Blue-wattled crow, hokako, honga, onga, honge, onge, pakara, werewere, Callaeas cinerea wilsoni

Physical appearance

Kōkako weigh c230 grams; are 38 cms long; have long legs & a long tail; & a short, strong bill.

Callaeas cinereus, Kōkako, Kokako, Blue-wattled crow, hokako, honga, onga, honge, onge, pakara, werewere, Callaeas cinerea wilsoni

Kete New Plymouth

Image: North Island Kokako

Branch hoppers

Reside in native forest & hop & leap around trees with their strong legs & small wingflaps,

North Island Kokako

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Flight: Gliders

Are poor fliers - can glide down on their short wings, but are not so good at flying upwards.

Kōkako in flight

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Kōkako on a branch

Food

Kōkako mainly eat fruit and leaves and, less often, flowers, moss, buds, nectar and invertebrates.

Kōkako on a branch

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: North Island Kokako, Callaeas wilsoni

Breeding age: 1-2 years

Lay 2-4 eggs during Nov-Feb in cup nests 3-25m high in trees & may raise 1 to 3 broods, after which they moult.

North Island Kokako, Callaeas wilsoni

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Image: Kōkako eggs

Incubation

The female incubate the eggs for c.18 days and nests for 27-42 days.

Kōkako eggs

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Kōkako feeding chicks

Rearing young

Both parents feed the chicks who remain with them for up to a year.

Kōkako feeding chicks

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Kokako return to Waitakere ranges

Flight feathers (fledging)

The young develop wings at 27-42 days after hatching. The sexes are alike; juveniles have pink or lilac wattles.

Kokako return to Waitakere ranges

TV3

Songbirds

"Rich, sonorous, sustained, organ-like notes are sung" (DoC). Males & females often duet.

North Island kōkako

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Kokako dialects

Regional kōkako dialects

Kokako dialects

Radio New Zealand

Conservation

With numbers declining over the decades due to deforestation and predators. conservation projects have been reintroducing the kōkako to various locations in the North Island.   

Image: Song of Protest

Wild South documentary, 1986

Song of Protest

NZ On Screen

Image: Kōkako recovery

Hūnua Kōkako Project, 1994

The Department of Conservation and Auckland Regional Council initiated the Hūnua Kōkako Project, to reintroduce kōkako.

Kōkako recovery

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Kaharoa Kokako Trust

Kaharoa Kōkako Trust established 1997

The Trust was formed when only 26 kōkako were in the Kaharoa Forest.

Kaharoa Kokako Trust

Radio New Zealand

Image: Kokako Release, Waitakere Ranges, May 2010

Kōkako release, 2010

Kokako Release, Waitakere Ranges, May 2010

Forest and Bird

Image: Relocating Kokako

Waitakere Ranges, 2011

Conservationists catch kōkako to reintroduce the birds into the Waitakere Ranges,

Relocating Kokako

Radio New Zealand

Image: Kokako Banding at Ark in the Park, 2013

Kōkako banding, 2011

Kokako Banding at Ark in the Park, 2013

Forest and Bird

Image: KokakoRelease Oct2011

Kōkako release, 2011

KokakoRelease Oct2011

Forest and Bird

Image: Creating a sanctuary: Tiritiri Matangi - Roadside Stories

Tiritiri Matangi, c2012

Creating a sanctuary: Tiritiri Matangi - Roadside Stories

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Bird-spotters using technology to find Kokako

Using technology, 2015

Hoping to prove the elusive South Island Kōkako is not extinct.

Bird-spotters using technology to find Kokako

TV3

Image: Birds: Kōkako

On the hunt at Kapiti Island 2016

On the hunt for the endangered North Island kōkako on Kapiti Island with bird man Hugh Roberston.

Birds: Kōkako

Radio New Zealand

Image: Returning Kokako to Mt Pirongia

Mt. Pirongia, 2017

Returning Kokako to Mt Pirongia

Radio New Zealand

Image: New encounters with the South Island Kōkako

South Island Kōkako, 2017

$10,000 reward for spotting South Island kōkako resulted in c 50 reports of possible sightings.

New encounters with the South Island Kōkako

Radio New Zealand

Image: Kokako
Kokako

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira