Blogger: Campaign Manager for the kakapo and Forest & Bird’s fundraiser, Jolene Molloy
Kakapos. They may not sing as hauntingly as the kokako or be as brightly coloured as the kakariki or swoop as majestically as the kaka but I think the kakapo is most deserving of crowning title of Bird of the Year.
They’re some of our most entertaining birds however their nightly performances are done under a curtain of darkness.
In fact they are the world’s only nocturnal parrot. They’re also the only parrots to use a lek system for breeding. It’s a bit like the bird equivalent of X Factor or American Idol.
The mating process involves the males finding the best position where they make a track and bowl system. This is their version of a stage. They are diligent stagekeepers, and they fuss over it so that it looks its best.
Every night they place themselves centre stage, they inflate their thoracic sac which is situated in their chest, and let out an almighty boom to attract the ladies.
The females behave a bit like judges checking out the males’ booming efforts before deciding which ones they want to mate with.
Once the females are impregnated they make a nest and essentially become solo parents until their chicks leave the nest. Breeding also does not occur every year as it tied to the fruiting of the rimu tree which is the main food for the chicks.
Alas this only occurs every couple of years, so scientists have tried to speed up it’s fruiting but this – so far- has been unsuccessful.
Like kiwi, the kakapo is flightless – however don’t tell them. They’ll climb trees, and have been known to hurl themselves off trees in the belief they can fly.
As the author Douglas Adam said in the book Last Chance to See, “Sadly, however, it seems that not only has the kakapo forgotten how to fly, but it has also forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly.”
Kakapos are also perfectly adapted to their natural environment. The colouring of their feathers means they can blend into New Zealand bush and if disturbed, they tend to freeze and blend into the environment. However, should they need to move quickly they can do with powerful legs that are equally good at walking and climbing.
However, all these marvellous traits couldn’t protect it from the various predators humans brought with them. The remaining kakapo population is now spread on predator free offshore islands. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, there are currently 129 kakapo in the world which is fantastic considering they only had 50 birds or so to their name in the 1990s.
This means they will hopefully be around for future generations to continue to entertain us. As those in the entertainment industry know, entertainers need to continue to collect accolades for their work.
As Naturalist, Gerald Durrell said “If naturalists go to heaven (about which there is considerable ecclesiastical doubt), I hope that I will be furnished with a troop of Kakapo to amuse me in the evening instead of television.”
The kakapo won the Bird of the Year in 2008 but in recognition of its continued entertaining work it should win again this year. It’s a bird that brings out the best in humans so please vote for kakapo in Forest & Bird’s Bird of Year.
To see my campaign video go here
To vote in Bird of the Year go here www.birdoftheyear.org.nz. Polling closes on November 25th.