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, endangered, 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.      

The kōkako belongs to NZ wattlebirds family

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

Kōkako wins Bird of the Year

TV3

"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.)  

Māori traditions about kōkako

Ngāi Tahu leader Sir Tīpene O’Regan relates Māori traditions about the kōkako and other birds.

Bird stories

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

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

North and South Island kōkako

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Deforestation & predation led to declining numbers

Predators include ship rats, possums, stoats and cats.

Animals of Te Urewera

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Predators - possum

A night-vision camera has captured a possum chasing a kōkako off her nest, and eating the eggs

Eating eggs

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

NZ Wildlife Service pamphlet (32 pages), 1985

Kokako

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

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

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

North Island kōkako: At risk - recovering

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

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

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.

Kōkako, North Island

Puke Ariki

South Island kōkako: Assumed extinct

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

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 kōkako

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Conservation status: Data deficient

Kōkako, South Island

Puke Ariki

Assumed extinct as no confirmed sightings

Search for the South Island kokako

Radio New Zealand

Characteristics

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

Branch hoppers

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

North Island Kokako

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

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

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

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.

kokako closeup

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Incubation

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

Kōkako eggs

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Rearing young

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

Kōkako feeding chicks

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Songbirds

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

North Island kōkako

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Regional kōkako dialects

Kokako dialects

Radio New Zealand

CONSERVATION

Hear what Kimi Kōkako has to say

Kimi Kōkakō is in a flap and asks for help during Conservation Week, 2018.

Kimi Kōkako Conservation Week 2018

Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

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

North Island:

Wild South documentary on North Island kōkako, 1986

Song of Protest

NZ On Screen

Hūnua Ranges, 1994

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

Kōkako recovery

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Hunua Ranges, 2016

Dozens of chicks hatch.

Dozens of kokako chicks hatch in Hunua Ranges

TV3

Hunua, Sept 2019

Public-guided tours available for first time to see kōkako.

Public guided tours to see threatened Kokako for the first time

Radio New Zealand

Kaharoa Forest, 1997

The Kaharoa Kōkakp Trust was formed in 1997 when only 26 kōkako were in the Kaharoa Forest.

Kaharoa Kokako Trust

Radio New Zealand

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

Mt. Pirongia, 2017

Returning Kokako to Mt Pirongia

Radio New Zealand

Ōpōtiki, 2005

Mangaroa/Ohotu Trust had reintroduced kōkako, 2005.

Meet the Locals: Kōkako translocation

Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

Paranihihi forest in Taranaki and the kōkako named Tamanui, 2014

Story about the kōkako, Tamanui, who was removed for safety from the forest in 1999 & had 22 offspring

Kōkako - The Story of Tamanui

Radio New Zealand

Picture book about the kōkako Tamanui

Picture story book for children by Rebecca Beyer (Huia Publishers, 2015).

Tamanui : te kokako morehu o Taranaki

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Parininihi forest in Taranaki, 2017

DOC staff released 12 birds into the forest. However, NZTA plans to make changes to State Highway 3 at Mt Messenger.

Bypass casts shadow over kokako release

Radio New Zealand

Tiritiri Matangi, c2012

Creating a sanctuary: Tiritiri Matangi - Roadside Stories

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Waitakere Ranges, 2010

Kōkako release in Waitakere Ranges.

Kokako Release, Waitakere Ranges, May 2010

Forest and Bird

Waitakere Ranges, 2011

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

Relocating Kokako

Radio New Zealand

Waitakere Ranges, 2011

Kōkako banding at Ark in the Park at Waitakere Ranges.

Kokako Banding at Ark in the Park, 2013

Forest and Bird

Waitakere Ranges, 2011

Kōkako release at Ark in the Park.

KokakoRelease Oct2011

Forest and Bird

Waitakere Ranges, 2013

The elusive kokako Duncan has been found and released back into his home in the Waitakere Ranges

Elusive Kokako Duncan captured

TV3

South Island:

Sighting claimed near Reefton, 2003

'Extinct' South Island kokako could still be alive

Television New Zealand

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

South Island kōkako, 2018

Ron Nilsson: seeking the elusive South Island kōkako

Radio New Zealand