Meet kākāpō - NZ bird of the Year 2020

A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa

The kākāpō has been crowned winner of Bird of the Year 2020 by the public

Kākāpō, Birds, Native birds, Conservation, Endangered

And the winner is...

The votes are in! The kākāpō has been crowned winner of Bird of the Year 2020 by the public. This is the parrot's second win, first taking the title in 2008. Bird of the Year is run by Forest & Bird to raise awareness of New Zealand’s unique native birds and the threats they face.  See: https://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/

kākāpō also known as owl parrot

The kākāpō is the world's only flightless parrot and nocturnal parrot. It's name comes from kākā ("parrot") + ("night"). It's round face resembles an owl; hence it is also called owl parrot (Strigops habroptilus), which was named by English ornithologist George Robert Gray in June 1845.  (Source: Wikipedia: Kakapo)

The kākāpō has a round face & dark brown eyes that resemble an owl, & is the world's only nocturnal & flightless parrot

Every single kakapo's genome to be sequenced

TV3

Physiology

World's heaviest parrot (0.95-4 kg), 58-64 cm in length, with long tail feathers, short legs, large feet & short wings

Kakapo features high on world rare bird list

Television New Zealand

Skeleton has smallest relative wing size of any parrot; its wing feathers are shorter, more rounded

Kakapo

iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao

Feathers are yellowish moss-green mottled with black or dark brownish grey

Kakapo - parrot of the night

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Although it cannot fly, it is an excellent climber. When on the ground, it moves with a jog-like gait.

Kākāpō juvenile

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

It can climb trees & descend from branches by leaping and spreading its wings like a parachute

Kakapo

Kete Horowhenua

Kākāpō roost under cover in trees or on the ground during the day & have adapted their senses to moving in darkness

Kakapo

iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao

Kākāpō have a well-developed sense of smell & can distinguish between odours while foraging

Kakapo, kākāpō, Owl parrot, Night parrot, Strigops habroptilus

Kete New Plymouth

They have a distinct musty-sweet odour which can alert predators. They freeze when startled to blend into the background

Kakapo, kākāpō, Owl parrot, Night parrot, Strigops habroptilus,

Kete New Plymouth

Kākāpō have a variety of calls. As well as the booms, and chings of their mating calls, they will often loudly skraark.

Voice of the Kākāpō 1: Kākāpō - night parrot

Radio New Zealand

Kākāpō are herbivorous, feeding on fruits, seeds, leaves, stems, and rhizomes

Kākāpō feeding

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

From egg to adult

During the breeding season, males gather in an arena formed by digging one or more saucer-shaped depressions or "bowls" in the ground which they stand in to help to amplify their mating call. They then compete against each other with displays (also known as "'lek") to attract a female - raise feathers, spread wings, raise claws and emit loud, low-frequency "booms" that can travel as far as five kilometres.  After 20-30 booms, they'll make a high-pitched metallic "ching" sound; then start the booming and chinging again. This can last for eight hours each night during the 2-4 month breeding season.  (See: Wikipedia: Kākāpō)

Breeding occurs in summer or autumn but only if trees have plenty of fruit (rimu has fruit every 2-4 years)

Kakapo breeding season off to a great start: RNZ Checkpoint

Radio New Zealand

Kākāpō are the only flightless bird where males gather & display or 'lek' to attract a female

Kākāpō

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

A male can breed with more than one female each breeding season

Kakapo, location unidentified

Alexander Turnbull Library

The nest is on the ground under plant cover or in a shallow depression in soil or rotten wood

Kakapo

iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao

Female kākāpō lays 1–4 eggs, with several days between eggs

Kakapo, Strigops habroptilus

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The female kākāpō incubates the eggs which usually hatch within 30 days

Watch: Baby Kākāpo hatches at Auckland Zoo

TV3

Chicks are first covered with greyish white down

Eleven new Kakapo chicks have hatched on Codfish Island

Television New Zealand

The female raises the chicks on her own

First kakapo chick hatches since 2011

Television New Zealand

When the female searches for food, the nest can be left unattended for periods of time

Kiore at kākāpō nest

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The female feeds the chicks for three months

Female kākāpō with chick

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Chicks become fully feathered at approx 70 days old & leave the nest at approx 10 to 12 weeks of age

Kākāpō and nestlings

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Average life expectancy of 60 years, and can live for 90 years

Kākāpō - Night Parrot

NZ On Screen

Conservation

For an overview of protection initiatives, see Wikipedia: Kakapo. The kākāpō is now critically endangered. The total known population was 213 (17 September 2019) and 210 (June 2020) - see their list of names on Wikipedia.  Most kākāpō are kept on two predator-free islands, Codfish / Whenua Hou (located to the west of Stewart Island) and Anchor (in the Dusky Sound in Fiordlamd). Little Barrier / Hauturu Island is being trialled as a third home for the species. The kākāpō carry radio transmitters to enable close monitoring.  (See https://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/kakapo-recovery/)  

Sirocco is the "Official Spokesbird for Conservation" & is a regular tweeter and has Facebook fans.

Search for Sirocco

Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

Fossil records show kākāpō originally distributed throughout North Island & South Island in pre-Polynesian times

The Unnatural History of the Kākāpō

NZ On Screen

Kākāpō were hunted by Māori as a food source & for its feathers (for clothing), & sometimes kept as pets

Kiwi and kakapo

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Predators such as cats, dogs, black rats, ferrets, & stoats introduced during British colonisation almost wiped them out

Nest cam to show rare Kakapo footage

Television New Zealand

Conservation measures began in 1890s by the Government & Resolution Island in Fiordland became a nature reserve in 1891

Cormorant Cove, Resolution Island

University of Otago

Caretaker Richard Henry (appointed 1894) relocated kiwi & over 200 kākāpō from the mainland over next 6 years

Resolution Island sanctuary for birds; illustrations to report of Mr R Henry, caretaker

Alexander Turnbull Library

By 1900, however, stoats that had swum to Resolution Island wiped out the kākāpō within 6 years

Stoat, Mustela erminea, Stoats, stoat new zealand, Short tailed weasel, Ermine

Kete New Plymouth

In 1903, three kākāpō were moved from Resolution Island to Little Barrier Island but feral cats were present

Photograph: Three Kakapo

Canterbury Museum

By the 1920s, the kākāpō was extinct in the North Island and numbers & locations declining in the South Island

Kakapo, Strigops habroptilus

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

New Zealand Wildlife Service carried out expeditions in Fiordland during 1951 - 1956 with no sightings

Fiordland National Park / drawn by the Department of Lands & Survey.

National Library of New Zealand

1958: one was caught & released in Milford Sound; 1961: 6 caught (1 released & 5 died); 1967: 1 caught & died

Kakapo

University of Otago

In 1977, sightings were reported on Stewart Island. During 1982-1997 the birds were transferred to predator-free islands

Kākāpō on Stewart Island

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The Kakapo Recovery Programme was started in 1995 by the NZ Conservation Department

Kakapo Recovery Programme

Radio New Zealand

Conservation efforts continue today by organisations, businesses & individuals

Meet the Locals: Saving the kākāpō

Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

Since 2015, the Kākāpō 125 project has DNA sequenced the genome of all living kakapo, as well as some museum specimens

Monitoring kākāpō

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The kākāpō carry radio transmitters to enable close monitoring.

Daily Chores in Kakapo Management

Radio New Zealand

Sirocco was hatched in 1997. After his radio transmitter failed, he was not seen for 2 years until reappearing in 2018.

Kākāpō Sirocco's makes first appearance in years

TV3

During 2019, kākāpō were threatened by a deadly fungal disease

Saved kakapo move back to island homes

Radio New Zealand

In Sept 2019 it was reported the kākāpō population was 213, which declined to 210 in June 2020

Kākāpō population hits new high of 213 birds

Radio New Zealand

Artistic images & tributes

Kakapo

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Kākāpō were also celebrated as Bird of the Year in 2008

Kākāpō display, Bird of the year

Christchurch City Libraries

Find out more:

Department of Conservation: Kākāpo   https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/kakapo/

Facebook: Kākāpō Recovery  https://www.facebook.com/KakapoRecovery/

Facebook: Sirocco Kākāpō   https://www.facebook.com/siroccokakapo/

Forest and Bird: Bird of the year   https://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/

New Zealand Birds Online: Kākāpō http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/kakapo

Wikipedia: Kakapo   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakapo

Wikipedia: List of kakapo  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kakapo