Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus)


Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family:    Psittacidae
Size:    Length: 2 feet (61 cm)
Weight: Up to 9 pounds (4 kg)
Diet: Fruit, seeds, bulbs, buds, nectar and shoots
Distribution: New Zealand
Young:  2 to 4 chicks, every 3 or 4 years
Animal Predators:  Dogs, rats, cats and weasels
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 60 years



·     Kakapos are the largest and heaviest parrots in the world.

·     Kakapo is a Polynesian (Maori) word meaning “parrot of the night.”

·     They are the only flightless parrots and also the only nocturnal parrots.

·     Kakapos are also known as “owl parrots” because of the circle of brown, bristle-like feathers around the beak and eyes.

·     The scientific name Strigops habroptilus means “owl-like.”



Kakapos have green feathers with dark speckles on their back. Their throat and breast feathers are a mottled yellow-green colour. Kakapos have a strong, musky odour that attracts predators. Females are smaller than males, but similar in their camouflaging colouration.  



Kakapos were once widespread throughout New Zealand, where they lived almost entirely free of predators for centuries. New Zealand was only inhabited by birds, reptiles and bats until 1200 AD, when settlers first arrived from Polynesia. 


Feeding Habits

Kakapos eat fruit, seeds, bulbs, buds, nectar and shoots. They grind their food between their strong lower mandible (lower part of the bill) and a grooved pad in the upper mandible. 



The breeding season lasts from December through February or March, which are the summer months in the southern hemisphere. A male attracts females using a sac in his chest to make a sound that resembles short blasts from a foghorn. The sound carries up to three miles (five kilometres) and females follow the noise. When a female finds the source of the sound, she watches the male make the booming noise for awhile as she decides whether or not she wants to mate with him. He further tries to impress her by doing a courtship dance. After they mate, the kakapos go their separate ways. Kakapos are very slow at reproducing—a female often does not breed until she reaches nine years of age, and then may not have another litter for three to four years. Usually only one or two (but up to four) eggs are laid in a hollow tree cavity, and a month may pass between the time each egg is laid. The female alone is responsible for feeding the babies and protecting them from predators. The eggs hatch one month after they are laid. Kakapos are helpless at birth, and remain in the nest for 3˝ months before they are able to walk around. As the sole provider, the female has to leave her chicks while she searches for food both for herself and for them, and this leaves them extremely vulnerable to predators. 



Kakapos do not fly, but they are good tree climbers and will jump from a height, using their wings for balance. When confronted by predators, kakapos have only one defence—to freeze. They are the only nocturnal parrots in the world. 



Although kakapos were once found in the mountains of New Zealand’s two main islands, they were so overhunted that they became extinct on New Zealand’s north island by the 1930s. In the 1950s, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs began a search on the south island for remaining kakapos. By 1974, they had only found eight. These remaining kakapos were captured and released on the nearby islands of Codfish, Maud and Little Barrier, where there are no predators. The Department of Conservation in New Zealand supplies a supplemental diet for the kakapos to ensure their survival. In lean times, kakapos may go for years without breeding, because unless there is enough food to go around, they will not bring babies into the world if their chances of survival are slim. There are now more than 60 kakapos living on these islands. 













Kakapo Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited