Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Species of the Day: Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus)

The Kakapo is a unique parrot endemic to New Zealand. This heavy bird is the world's only flightless parrot as well as the world's only nocturnal parrot (hence their name, meaning Night Parrot).  This purely herbivorous parrot spends it's time stalking through the undergrowth in search of fruit, seeds, bark, leaves, stems and bulbs. 

Over time the Kakapo has evolved to become flightless while the Night Parrot has put on a lot of weight and developed extremely sturdy feet built for walking and climbing. The Kakapo is one of the longest living of all birds, reaching upwards of 90 years of age. Amongst other interesting behaviours, the male Kakapo can emit a very deep 'sonic boom' which can be heard up to 5km away. This aids these solitary birds in the search for mates in their vast, mountainous territories. Listen to the Kakapo 'boom' here:


Unfortunately the Kakapo is critically endangered. Whilst it used to be one of the most abundant of all the birds of New Zealand, there are now about 125 left in the world. This number is, amazingly, on the rise from the mid 90's when their numbers hit the all-time low of 50 in the wild population. Due to some very well established conservation schemes and captive breeding programs the number has risen slowly since 1995. Like many flightless birds, the Kakapo evolved to fill an ecological niche in an environment devoid of predators. When humans arrived in New Zealand, they brought dogs, cats and rats. Through the introduction of these 4 predators (humans not excluded) as well as the destruction of their natural habitats, the Kakapo has seen a dramatic decline in population.

The Kakapo Recovery Organization is fighting for the survival of this fascinating bird and is largely responsible for the increase in the Night Parrot's population. To read more about this organization visit their website:


Here is a link to a great documentary about the critically endangered Kakapo. Enjoy:


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