Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) – World’s Most Fascinating Species
The owl parrot or kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is not only New Zealand’s most endangered bird but also one of the world’s most fascinating species. In 1980 only 15 individuals were known — all males — and although the position has improved since then the species remains the top priority for the NZ Wildlife Service.
The kakapo is an extremely specialized bird and it seems likely that numbers were declining before the arrival of European settlers accelerated the process. Habitat destruction was disastrous, as was the introduction of domestic animals, especially the cat, as the kakapo has very short wings and is the only entirely flightless parrot.
Kakapo Bird Facts and Information
Sometimes Kakapo or owl parrot opens its wings when threatened or while climbing in trees when it may glide to the ground. It is also the heaviest member of this very large family of some 332 species in 82 genera, 30 species of which are threatened, many through wholesale exploitation as cagebird pets.
Like its New Zealand relative the kea, the kakapo is polygamous and the mating of this nocturnal bird is highly unusual. Males gather at night in traditional areas known as leks and advertise their presence with loud booming calls to attract the females who cannot see them easily in the dense cover. As with many other lekking animals, the male is not known to take any part in parental care.
The kakapo or owl parrot is unique in the way it feeds: it takes a blade of grass in its bill and chews it without severing it from the plant, extracting the juices but leaving the blade as a bundle of tangled fibres which dry white. After roosting by day under a rock or tree, the parrot wanders by night through the forest and next morning it is relatively easy to spot where it has been for it follows regular trails and these are marked by the pale, chewed grass blades left behind.
The species soon became extinct on North Island and later confined to Fiordland. But in recent years some were rediscovered on Stewart Island off the south coast of South Island and some of these were later transferred to Little Barrier Island. And even more recently kakapos have been rediscovered in north-west Nelson.