Conservation Status Critically Endangered
Kakapos are coloured a mossy green which is then mottled with brown and yellow. Their belly is coloured yellowish-green with streaks of yellow. This colouration provides camouflage on the forest floor where they live. Around their face is a brown disk of feathers. Protruding from this is an ivory coloured beak. The top of the upper mandible is coloured bluish-grey. The wings are small and insignificant rendering this bird incapable of flight. Their eyes are dark brown.
Males are larger than females. Both stand between 59 and 64cm (23 and 25in) tall. Males average 2kg (4.4lb) in weight while females average 1.5kg (3.3lb). This makes it the heaviest parrot species.
The kakapos lifespan is estimated to be between 40 and 65 years. Some believe that it is one of the longest lived parrots on earth.
Kakapos are herbivorous animals. Most of their diet is made up of native plants, seeds, fruits and pollen. One of their favorites is the fruit of the rimu tree which may form 100% of their diet when it fruits; this only occurs every two to five years though. Their beak is designed for grinding their food. This makes the gizzard which would normally break down food redundant and it is much smaller in kakapos than it is in other birds.
New Zealand is the native home of the kakapo. Formerly these birds could be found across the South, North and Stewart Islands. From 1980 to 1997 all the kakapo were moved off of Stewart Island and placed on Codfish, Maud and Little Barrier and Chalky Island which are free from introduced predators. These are now the only places where they can be found.
They make their home in the lowland podocarp forests, upland beech forests and subalpine scrublands.
Breeding occurs from December to April. These birds will not breed every year usually taking advantage of the fruiting of the rimu tree to provide enough food for this to occur.
They are the world’s only parrot which employs a lek mating system. This method is where a number of males will gather at the same place and display for the females. Into the soil they will dig a 10cm (4in) deep bowl. The male will make sure that his bowl is clean at all times. These are often situated next to a rock face or tree. This helps to amplify their booming call which is made through the inflation of a thoracic sac. They perform this call for up to 8 hours a night. Males will also perform a side to side rocking movement and make clicking noises with his beak to attract a female. She will initiate mating which lasts from 2 to 14 minutes.
Males continue their display following a successful mating in the hope of mating with another female. Meanwhile the female returns to her territory and builds a nest. This is a deep burrow built under a burrow or tree roots. Into this 1-2 eggs are deposited with a month between them. The eggs are incubated for 30 days. Chicks are fluffy and grey at birth.]. After 10-12 weeks they are ready to leave the nest but they will continue to get some food from their mother for 6 months.
Hatchlings gender is determined by the diet of the mother. The richer their diet is in protein the more males which hatch.
Sexually maturity is not achieved in males until 5 years old while females wait even longer until 9 years old normally. They are capable of mating at 6 years old though.
Kakapos are nocturnal animals. During the day they will take cover in the trees.
These animals are rare amongst birds in that they cannot fly. They are able to reach the tips of trees by climbing. They can also descend to the ground by “parachuting” which sees them descend to the ground by leaping and spreading their wings.
To move along the forest floor these birds use a hopping movement. Their legs are strong to facilitate this.
Predators of the kakapo include cats, stoats and rats all of which were introduced by Europeans. Prior to this they were believed to have had no predators which is why they adapted to live on the ground. Introduced deer and possum also compete with them for their food.
As of March 2014 there was just 120 kakapo remaining in the wild.
Kakapo are also referred to as owl parrots.
By Brent Barrett (originally posted to Flickr as New Zealand Kakapo) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Mnolf [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons