Yes, it is a post for the birds. Well, at least one bird. The one bird we will be talking about this week is the Kakapo, which means ‘night parrot.’ We are going to give this little guy a big shout out because he is critically endangered. So before he exits, which we hope he doesn’t, lets learn about New Zealand’s Kakapo.
The Kakapo’s scientific name is Strigops habroptilus. It comes to us from the Greek, strigos "owl", and ops "face.”
To all my kids out there, who are reading this blog post, let me say, you don’t need to remember that name. For Heaven’s Sake, it’s even difficult to pronounce. If we translate Strigops Habroptilus, it means ‘owl-like.’ What do you think? Do you think it looks like an owl? A bit around the eyes, I think. Actually, owls have what’s called a facial disk. The facial disk is the arrangement of feathers around the eyes. It’s sort of concave, or caved in. This arrangement allows the bird to focus in on a sound, and direct the sound waves to their ears. Pretty cool! Kakapos do have a facial disk and that’s how they got that unusual name.
Image: Sirocco Kakapo, Wikipedia
In the above picture, you can clearly see the concave facial disk of the Kakapo.
The Kakapo is only found in New Zealand. New Zealand is an island off the southeast coast of Australia. You can see it in the below picture in the right-hand corner. However, the Kakapo is no longer on the mainland of New Zealand. It has been isolated on three of New Zealand’s islands: Codfish, Maud and Little Barrier. People have moved the Kakapo to these three islands to protect it and insure its continued existence. These three islands are reserved. This is a good thing.
Image credit: Map-quest
There are some very interesting facts about the Kakapo, which we will discuss in this post, but first I want you to know that this is no ordinary bird. The Kakapo is actually a parrot. However, it is not closely related to any other parrots. Why, you ask? Good question. Its not closely related because its ancestors became separated from other parrots when New Zealand broke off from Gondwana. We have spoken about Gondwana in a previous post, but let’s review.
Here’s a picture of Gondwana. You can see New Zealand on the right, next to Australia. It’s that long island along side the large island.
Gondwana Image - Wikipedia
As you can see, Gondwana was a large mass of land. It existed millions of years ago. It broke up and created smaller landmasses, such as Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. The Kakapo developed separate from other parrots on the island of New Zealand, becoming the unusual bird we know today. The Kakapo “is a classic example of evolution on an isolated island, and it has a number of characteristic features that make this species unique.” http://Arkive.org
We’ve discovered that the Kakapo is different from most other birds. What else makes it different? First of all it is flightless. It likes to stay on the ground foraging (looking for, searching) for roots, seeds, fruits, bulbs, buds, flowers, etc. It is herbivorous, meaning it eats only plants and plant products. Although it spends most of its time on the ground, the Kakapo can climb and when it gets up into a tree, it can parachute to the ground by spreading its wings. Secondly, it is nocturnal. Most birds are up during the day. The Kakapo likes the nightlife.
Kakapos are dimorphic. This means that there is a difference in appearance between the males and females. Female Kakapos are smaller and their feathers are less colorful than males. Did you ever really stop and think about it? In the animal world, especially the bird world, the males dress up, so to speak. In the world of humans, it’s the females who spend exorbitant (a lot) amounts of time making themselves look prettier than males. J
The Maori, which is the indigenous people of New Zealand, hunted the Kakapo for a meal and for their feathers, which they prized and used on their clothing. When the Maori arrived on New Zealand, they brought predators along with them, and due to the Kakapo’s habit of freezing when threatened, it became easy prey to dogs, cats and even rats. They were therefor on the brink of extinction. As a result, drastic measures were taken to remove all the Kakapos from the mainland and, as I stated above, bring them to three reserved islands where their populations could recover, and they did. The Kakapo population has increased from 51 individuals in 1995 to 86 in 2002. We hope they will continue to grow in numbers.
It would be a shame to lose this wonderful bird, which is unlike any other.
To learn more, visit the following sites:
Here’s a video you can watch to learn a bit more about this unusual parrot.
My sincere thanks to ARKive.org for some of the information and pictures.
Thank you so much for visiting Australian Fantasy Adventures’ blog page. We hope you’ll stop by again. J
Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, Award Winning Middle Grade Fantasy
Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!