Kakapo Bird: New Zealand’s Flightless Parrot

Kakapo Bird Only found in New Zealand, it is a big, flightless, nocturnal parrot species. It is the heaviest parrot in the world, the only one without wings, nocturnal, herbivorous, and physically sexually dimorphic in size.

This particular parrot is the only one with a polygynous lek breeding system. It has been reported that it can live up to 100 years, making it perhaps one of the longest-living birds in the world. Similar to numerous other New Zealand bird species, the kakapo bird has historical significance for the Māori, the country’s aboriginal inhabitants. Numerous old tales and folklore inside their culture mentioned it.

Kakapo Bird: Appearance

The kakapo bird’s upper portions blend in nicely with the surrounding flora thanks to their yellowish moss-green feathers that are barred or mottled with black or dark brownish grey. The kakapo bird was named the “owl parrot” by early European immigrants because of its noticeable facial disk of fine feathers that resembles an owl’s face.

Delicate feathers that resemble vibrissae or “whiskers” surround the beak; it’s likely that kakapo bird use them to sense the ground when walking with their head lowered, but there’s no proof of this. Like all parrots, kākāpō feet are big, scaly, and zygodactyl, meaning that two toes face forward and two backward.

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Diet

These birds are herbivores by nature; they consume fruits, seeds, tubers, green shoots, and pollen, among other plant parts. Their nutrition is seasonally dependent, but they particularly enjoy the rimu tree, inaka, and mountain pinkberry. They can subsist on modest amounts of food since they lack wings and have a low metabolic rate.

Distribution

Currently, they are restricted to the Little Barrier Islands, Codfish, and Anchor Islands where there is no predator. They also lived in woods where rata, tawa, beeches, and podocarps were the dominant species.

Though they did not live only in forests, these birds appear to have favored broadleaf or mountain beech and Hall’s tōtara woodland, which has moderate winters and abundant precipitation. These days kakapo birds are restricted to islands where there is no predator.

All of the birds that were relocated to islands devoid of predators have shown excellent environmental and dietary adaptation.

Habits and Lifestyle

kakapo birds are primarily nocturnal animals that hide in trees or on the ground during the day and spend their evenings scavenging about their areas. Despite being unable to fly, kakapos are skilled climbers who can reach the tops of the highest trees.

Additionally, they have the ability to “parachute,” which is a method that involves leaping and extending their wings to descend. They move across several kilometers at a time because of their quick “jog-like” gait. Kakapos freeze to blend in with the foliage that complements their plumage when they sense danger. The calls of kakapo birds are diverse, just like those of many other parrot species.

Mating Habits

Male and female kakapos only meet for mating; they are polygynous and do not establish couples. Males depart from their home ranges during the courting season to congregate on ridges and hilltops, where they create their own mating courts and stay all season long.

Males will engage in combat at the onset of the breeding season in an attempt to claim the best courts. kakapo birds often breed every two to four years rather than annually. The eggs typically hatch in 30 days, producing defenseless, fluffy grey chicks.

The chicks stay with the mother for a few months after they fly away after the eggs hatch and the female feeds them for three months. When the chicks are about 10 and 12 weeks old, they depart the nest. The average age at which female kakapo birds reach reproductive maturity is nine years old.

Population

Population threats: In the past, kapos were found widely across the three main islands of New Zealand, making them the third most common bird there. The Māori transported the Polynesian rat, or kiore, to New Zealand as stowaways, and it feasted on its eggs and chicks.

Moreover, the kakapo’s livable range was lowered by Māori intentional vegetation clearance. Even if Māori settlement had a negative impact on these birds, their demise was much faster after European colonialism. Kakapo was also eaten by early European explorers and their dogs.

Collectors were aware of the diminishing kakapo bird population as early as the 1870s, and their main goal was to gather as many as they could before the bird went extinct.

Population number: The IUCN Red List estimates that there were 149 kakapo bird in the world in 2018. The IUCN Red List now lists this species as Critically Endangered (CR), however, it is becoming more common.

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