Learn all about the Kakapo: Characteristics, Habitat and much more.

Kakapo, is the name of a beautiful species that is currently in danger of extinction, it is a parrot of large size and robust appearance, which inhabits 2 of the islands of New Zealand specifically in the South Pacific, due to its risk situation there are only a few specimens of this species, which survive in freedom in areas reserved for them and under special care, in the following article we will know more about this nice parrot.

The kakapo

The Kakapo, is a parrot whose characteristics make it stand out from others, is a flightless bird, which due to various circumstances is in serious danger of extinction, this species is located in New Zealand, and has different programs generated to preserve the existing specimens.

The kakapo also has other names among them is known as “owl parrot” because it is characterized by having different nocturnal habits, the physical shape of his body and his behavior resembles the life of an owl.

This bird also has a beautiful color and large eyes that give it a special touch. There was a time when thousands of the kakapo were located on the islands of New Zealand in the South Pacific, but due to their great decline only about 40 specimens have been recorded in the wild.

Characteristics of the Kakapo

The kapo is a very particular parrot, when it reaches adulthood it can weigh up to 3 kg. It is usually a flightless bird that spends most of his life on the ground and sometimes climbs nearby trees, within their diet is common the following foods:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Vegetation
  • Some Insects

 

The Kakapos have a very organized mating system, each member fulfills a specific function, although they are usually birds that are alone, as it is part of their usual behavior, in the case of the male elaborates a space near their environment and then call through different sounds to the female, the tone that usually uses to seek the attention of his conquest can be heard over long distances even in the midst of external noise.

During the reproductive stage, the female of this species looks for a safe space to form a good nest on the ground, and makes it with objects found in their environment, such as sticks, branches and even leaves.

History of the Kakapo

The Kakapo was expanding in different areas of New Zealand, reaching a large number of them, but after several events the amount began to disappear permanently, in the 1930s were located with a higher rate in the wet areas of the South Island.

The last birds found in the wild died in Fiordland at the end of 1980. After that, species were found in different places, but they all disappeared over time, and this caused the species to become endangered.

Extinction of the species

The Kakapo, are one of the birds in danger of extinction due to different events, the main ones are the damage caused to their habitat by people, and also the amount of predators that surround their natural environment, which place them in a level of danger.

The Kakapo, like many species of New Zealand, tends to move along the ground constantly in search of different foods, since this bird does not have the ability to fly, is in many cases an easy prey of different types of predators, which are close to their environment, also many people over time have damaged certain areas of their habitat, leading to this species to be in danger of extinction.

The historical background mentions that there was a time when the Kakapo, were used by the ancestors of New Zealand in their diet, as they were found in many places and were easy to catch, as they are often on the ground, also the settlers, and the Spanish, consumed this bird, as they considered it had a lot of protein and was vital for their development.

With the evolution that occurred in the areas of New Zealand, the people who settled in the nearby areas had a large number of pets, which easily became predators of these birds, among the animals that came to the place were:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Weasels
  • Possums
  • Rats

As a consequence of the incorporation of these predators, in a short time most of these birds suffered a great reduction in the number of their young, since they nest on the ground and were defenseless prey for the predators that moved through the area.

Most of this species has disappeared as a result of the destruction of their natural habitat and predators that frequently surround their environment, each of these causes has not facilitated that they can reproduce and return to expand the high percentage they had in the past, although they are taking different types of measures to conserve the species, the efforts have been ineffective, for this reason they are at risk of extinction.

Conservation measures

To achieve the conservation of this species over time, various measures have been taken, among them specialists have focused on 2 specific ways to care for the birds that exist today and thus multiply them, the methods often used are as follows:

  • Habitat protection
  • Relocation to reserves

Habitat protection

In New Zealand, several measures have been taken to conserve many animals that are in danger of extinction, within this percentage is the Kakapo, as it is a species that is currently at great risk of disappearing, national parks and other protected areas, have the necessary means to ensure the development and reproduction of these birds.

There are also entities in charge of having a good control of habitat protection, since this means is more frequently used instead of captive breeding programs.

Relocation to reserves

In New Zealand, a series of programs have been permanently established with the main function of relocating and continuously protecting kakapo reproduction. All surviving kakapo located on the inhabited islands of New Zealand are carefully trapped by certain methods.

After they are trapped, the objective is to relocate them to the protected refuge islands, which have adequate protection for their good development, since there are no predators, close to this environment, there are no cats and there are no rats or other dangerous animals that threaten this species.

Usually the keepers are permanently on the island since they live on it and thus prevent access of any unauthorized person, thus keeping the whole area under control. Another of its rules is that it is totally forbidden to disembark any boat that arrives to the place, this to avoid the entry of rats or other animals.

According to different opinions, there are currently about 40 kakapos that are under special care. However, they have not been able to reproduce widely and because of this their species is at risk of extinction.

Population

Formerly there was a large number of kakapo, which were located in the islands of New Zealand, after many years these groups of birds suffered a significant decline, which has placed them at extreme risk, at present there are several of these birds that are completely cared for and to try to avoid their total decline and possible extinction, carry radio transmitters and are permanently monitored.

Threats and conservation

Adult kakapo were constantly easy prey for cats and stoats, among other animals such as rats that can constantly eat their eggs and chicks. The females of this species are dedicated to the care and rearing of the chicks, until they reach the maturity necessary to feed themselves.

Because the females must move through certain stages to look for food, which they get far from the nest, the eggs and chicks are completely vulnerable to the number of predators that surround the place where they live, and just attack when the nest is not guarded by the female, since the chicks usually generate various characteristics that are easy to distinguish, by animals such as cats.

The kakapo at one time were analyzed by means of a defense mechanism against the many predators that surround them, specifically sought the natural way to camouflage themselves, and this process relied on cryptic coloration to return them to their natural state, and in many cases to place themselves away from predators.

But with the passage of time it was found that this technique did not work, because the many predators were guided using their natural instinct, until they reached the place where most of the nests were, in many cases they used their good sense of smell to detect the exact presence of their prey and attack them suddenly, the main cause of the decline in their environment has been the predators, as they are abundant.

Breeding

The kakapo is a species that breeds in the summer and autumn, although this occurs only in years where there is a large amount of fruit, in the southern islands of New Zealand these birds reproduce just when certain trees typical of the place give fruit, and usually occurs during a period of 2 to 4 years.

In other parts of New Zealand, they may nest according to the season in which they are found, because the process of reproduction is very complex, there are few ways to quickly increase their species, this is the main factor that puts them at risk of extinction.

Males look for different ways to attract the attention of females and thus achieve mating. The males of this species are characterized by not participating in the development process of the offspring, since they do not help in the incubation or in the rearing of chicks.

The nests built by the kakapo are usually found on the ground in specific places such as natural cavities or even under dense vegetation. The females of this species can lay from 1 to 4 eggs which they protect constantly and tend to take care of until they reach their natural independence.

Behavior

The Kakapo have very particular characteristics, they are usually birds with a specific behavior and often resembles other species, usually this bird has nocturnal habits and are usually solitary, they remain in the same nest for many years, usually climb trees very often and move along the ground and branches to get different types of food.

Food

The Kakapo are birds with a very varied diet, they usually eat natural products close to their environment, this diet includes certain products such as:

  • Leaves
  • Sprouts
  • Flowers
  • Fern leaves
  • Bark
  • Roots
  • Rhizomes
  • Bulbs
  • Fruits
  • Seeds

The diet of this species varies depending on the season and the environment where the Kakapo is found, as it often moves to different distances in search of certain foods, which are removed from its usual nest.

Groups

The Maori or also known as Maori, are a very ancient ethnic group that was located from archaic times in the areas corresponding to the islands of New Zealand, in the southern part, this group has a very particular culture which relates to the aforementioned species of bird kakapo.

Maori Culture

The kakapo is a somewhat exotic bird, which is closely related to part of the folklore tradition and beliefs of the Maori people. They paid a lot of attention to the reproduction cycle of this bird, since they related it to events of fructification or abundance, they had a respect for this species since, according to this group, it could predict the future.

By means of these beliefs, the Maori ethnic group dedicated themselves to be guided by each of the details that occurred in the dates close to the reproduction of this species, and in many cases were taken as signs of prevention of each event that occurred, and through which they directed their environment.

Utility of the species

In ancient times it was common to use the meat of the kakapo as a fundamental basis of the diet of this group, the Maori considered that the flavor of this species contained a unique touch and for that reason it was common to elaborate many foods with this bird.

This group considered that the flavor of the bird was equal to the lamb and for this reason they sought at all times to hunt it, since it was found in many areas and in large quantities, although as for the use of food the colonists described the kakapo as a strange and strong flavor. Each culture had its own point of view regarding the elaboration of kakapo.

In the breeding years, due to the loud sounds used by the males to establish the mating, the hunters of these birds could easily locate the specific place where they were and so they could catch them easily, they also often used to hunt them when these birds were eating.

Other techniques used by these groups, to catch this species was to establish their search at night, for this reason they generated many traps in the territory of the bird, to facilitate its capture and use it as food.

This group also took advantage of this species to create certain types of accessories like clothes and some utensils with the parts of this bird, the frequent ones were the layers that they made with the feathers of the animal, they used to be unique styles and they helped them to be kept well sheltered in the periods where it was cold.

The kakapo was considered as a quiet pet for the Maori group, they gave different types of uses to these birds, since it was frequent its abundant presence in the areas where they lived permanently.

In the media

The media has been a key piece in requesting help in the preservation of the endangered kakapo species. Different types of programs have been used to help in the different stages and methods established throughout history.

Many of these programs have created a certain popularity around the importance of this species, and its delicate situation, which has been efficiently addressed by people trained in this work and whose main objective is to save this nice bird.

Ecology

The kakapo, have been a species that over time has evolved greatly, in New Zealand, these birds like other animals have gone through different stages, although at first it was considered by its large number due to predators have been significantly reduced their copies. (see article: Types of Birds).

Long before the areas populated by this species, were intercepted by people were established several habitats of the kakapo, they were located in the 3 main islands of New Zealand, and had a large percentage of its specimens.

It was common for kakapo to nest in different areas, as they were large in numbers, they were scattered in different areas, the places they commonly used to inhabit included the following spaces:

  • Matas
  • Thickets
  • Coastal areas
  • Forests

In places like Fiordland, they used to establish their nests in the debris near the areas where they commonly frequented which were characterized by a very fruitful vegetation, they took advantage of feeding on most of the fruits that prevailed in the place.

The kakapo, had a great adaptation to the different types of areas where it was established, which ranged from tropical parts to areas that were generally warm, but in the same way they were able to locate the specimens quietly and in a suitable environment.

Human impact

Since ancient times, the kakapo has spread to different parts of New Zealand, with frequent records covering the following areas:

  • North Island
  • South Island
  • Stewart Island

 

The Maori, for a long time hunted the kakapo, and considered it as a means of utility by providing food and shelter, since then these birds were threatened by humans and local predators. Many of the eggs and chicks of these species were eaten by rats.

These processes gave rise to the rapid loss of many of the species and the percentage that existed decreased significantly, thus generating a danger for the conservation of this bird, which decreased from the islands it once inhabited in large numbers.

In the 1840s, European settlers took over most of the areas where this species was located, and on the land they carried out different types of work, which included grazing and agricultural labor that was common at the time.

These events caused them to damage many areas that were part of the natural habitat of this bird, and also accelerated the process of its decline, a large percentage was affected by each of these events from the young to adult birds began to disappear this caused an immediate alarm because the main islands ceased to inhabit the bird.

This is how different plans were initiated with the purpose of preserving this nice bird, since then it has been part of a constant struggle to try to incorporate them in protected areas and above all away from predators considered the main threat to this species.

Adequate spaces

Each plan carried out to help the species has the support of professionals in the corresponding areas who are in charge of permanently monitoring the good development and functioning of the species in its protected environment. The chicks have also received due attention although it has not been easy to reproduce this bird since it is based on seasons and according to this occurs every 2 to 4 years, which has been difficult for its expansion.

In general, this bird has a very important characteristic, it has been proven that it can easily adapt to the environment where it is located, in ancient times it used to move in warm places, as in environments a little colder, in each of these spaces they could make their nests and live for long periods of time, this is how they were located in different islands.

In the spaces created for their conservation there are methods that facilitate the good development that they need and this varies after different techniques, it is common that they are monitored in order to give them a good care, since the overlapping provided covers most of the time possible, since they have been incorporated into these protected areas has been taken care that no foreign agent, predator or any person damage these species.

Since it is of vital importance to guarantee that the specimens of kakapo, that exist at the present time manage to multiply in a satisfactory way to fulfill this way with the preservation of the species in a positive way, there are few birds of this species that have remained in the present times, that is why they are in a very vulnerable condition, arriving to the degree, of being considered to the edge of the extinction.

The physical characteristics of this bird are really amazing as well as the habits that it has, for this reason it is often compared with the behavior of other animals close to their environment, these birds perform better in the hours of the nights as they are nocturnal almost similar to owls.

They differ from other birds by their considerable size, as they are larger and more robust, also reflect a quiet behavior often travel long distances away from the usual nest to find food they need for their development.

In the care of their young are the females who are in charge of everything, since they take care of the chicks at all times, while the males are completely detached from this function, since they are very independent and in many cases solitary.

In general, kakapo males only look for company to reproduce and this process occurs only in certain periods which take up to several years, depending on the season they are in. The females of this species when they are able to reproduce can lay from 2 to 4 eggs, as it is the most common for them. This, in many cases affected that they multiply rapidly, in spite of the many efforts made to preserve the species.