Kakapo

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image: kakapo.jpg

Common Name: Kakapo

Scientific Name: Strigops habroptilus

Size: 23-25 inches (59-64 cm)

Habitat: New Zealand. Once widespread within the North, South and Stewart Islands, but is now extinct throughout this former range. Between 1980 and 1997, all kakapo remaining on Stewart Island were transported to offshore, predator-free islands in order to protect them from introduced mammalian carnivores. The species now occurs on Codfish and Chalky Islands.

Status: Critically Endangered. In early history, the Māori hunted kakapo for their feathers and meat and the Polynesian dog and rat (introduced by the Māori) also preyed upon the species. When the Europeans began to settle in the 1800s, the range of the kakapo had already dramatically declined, and the situation became critical as Europeans set about clearing forests, hunting and releasing mammalian predators such as domestic cats and dogs. The kakapo is particularly vulnerable to predation by mammals due to its strong scent, habit of freezing when threatened, its ground nesting behavior, and flightlessness. The latter, together with very slow breeding strategies are key elements in the demise of many endangered and extinct New Zealand species. Also, the introduced possums and deer compete with the kakapo for food sources. Removal of predators, supplying additional nutrients, monitoring nests with video, and radio collaring the remaining kakapo are measures being taken to ensure the kakapo’s survival. 2007 Population: 86

Diet: Variety of fruits, seeds, roots, stems, leaves, nectar and fungi

Nesting: The Kakapo is the only parrot to have a lek mating system; early in the breeding season (December through April), males gather on display grounds where a number of bowl shaped depressions are dug out in the ground. Having competed for access to the best locations, a male settles into a bowl and then begins to 'boom' to attract females. This strange, very low frequency call can be heard up to 5 km away, and obtains its resonance via inflatable throat air sacs; lek-displaying males also make a metallic, high pitched 'ching' call. After mating, females incubate the eggs and rear the chicks alone. Two to three eggs are usually produced and the chicks hatch after 30 days. Sexual maturity is not reached until 9 - 10 years of age; furthermore, breeding is erratic and slow, occurring every 2 - 5 years and is dictated by the infrequent availability of super-abundant food supplies. One such event is the 'mast fruiting' of the 'rimu' tree (Dacrydium cupressinum), which only occurs every 2 - 5 years.

Cool Facts: Kakapo is also known as the “owl parrot” and is nocturnal. It is a classic example of evolution on an isolated island; and has a number of characteristic features that make this species unique. It is the only member of the subfamily Strigopinae and although it has fully developed wings, it is the only flightless parrot in the world. The reason why this parrot is flightless is because there is no sternal keel for attachment of the wing muscles. It is also the largest parrot known and is possibly the longest-lived. The oldest known bird was elderly when found in 1975 and still lives. Its eating habits are unique. The parrots chew the leaves and stems of plants, extracting the juice, and leave behind fibrous, chewed balls dangling from the plants that often bleach white in the sun.

The Kakapo has a rich tradition of Māori folklore and beliefs associated with it as a species. Their irregular breeding cycle was noted to be associated with heavy fruiting seasons of particular plant species, which led the Māori to credit the bird with the ability to foretell the future. Used to substantiate this claim were reported observations of these birds dropping the berries of the Hinau and Tawa trees (when they were in season) into secluded pools of water to preserve them as a food supply for the summer ahead; the Māori practice of immersing food in water for the same purpose is believed to originate from these observations.

As the Kakapo were generally considered to be good nourishment, they were once hunted for this purpose during the time they were still widespread. In breeding years, the loud booming calls of the males at their mating arenas made it easy for Māori hunting parties to track them down, while they were also hunted while feeding or when having dust baths in dry weather. The birds were caught, generally at night, using snares, pitfall traps, or by groups of domesticated Polynesian dogs which accompanied the hunting parties—sometimes the hunters would use fire sticks of various sorts to dazzle the birds in the darkness, stopping them in their tracks and making capture easier. Also taken by the Māori were the bird's eggs, which they described to be "whitish but not pure white".

As well as eating the birds they killed, Māori used their skins—with the feathers still attached—to create cloaks and capes. To the Māori, these clothing items were very valuable, and the few still in existence today are considered taonga (treasures). Kakapo feathers were also used to decorate the heads of taiaha (spear-like weapons), but were removed before actual use in combat

Despite all, the Kakapo was also regarded as an affectionate pet by the Māori. This was corroborated by European settlers in New Zealand in the 19th century, among them George Edward Grey, who once wrote in a letter to an associate that his pet Kakapo's behavior towards him and his friends was "more like that of a dog than a bird.

Each of the 86 remaining Kakapo has been named.


Found in Songbird Remix Threatened Endangered Extinct 2

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