A worthy winner of the World’s Favourite Species campaign, the kakapo clearly has a lot of fans! We thought we would revisit this unusual and charismatic bird as our Endangered Species of the Week – here’s what makes it special…
Species: Kakapo (Strigops habroptila)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The kakapo is the largest parrot in the world, and is also the only flightless parrot species.
An extremely rare, nocturnal parrot, the kakapo was once widespread across New Zealand, but is now confined to two predator-free offshore islands. This unusual bird feeds on a variety of fruits, seeds and other plant material and generally lives alone, coming together only to breed. During the breeding season, male kakapos produce a loud ‘boom’ call to attract a mate, which can be heard up to five kilometres away. The kakapo is long-lived but breeds slowly, usually only once every two to five years. When threatened, rather than running away the kakapo freezes, relying on its mossy green, mottled plumage to help it blend into the forest floor.
The kakapo is highly vulnerable to introduced mammalian predators such as cats, dogs and rats. These predators, together with forest clearance and hunting, decimated the kakapo population on the mainland until the drastic step was taken of transporting the last few individuals to predator-free islands. Although the kakapo population remains critically low at 126 individuals, intensive management through a Kakapo Recovery Programme is beginning to show positive results.
Find out more about the kakapo and its conservation at the Kakapo Recovery Programme.
Why not take a look at the other World’s Favourite Species winners – did your favourite make the Top 10?
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author