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Kakapo - Strigops habroptilus
Scalesofanubis: Wrote:Kakapo - Strigops habroptilus

[Image: kakapo-on-branch.jpg]

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Superfamily: Strigopoidea
Family: Strigopidae
Genus: Strigops
Species: Strigops habroptilus

The Kakapo (Māori: kākāpō, meaning night parrot), Strigops habroptilus (Gray, 1845), also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless, nocturnal, ground dwelling parrot of the super-family Strigopoidea endemic to New Zealand. It has finely blotched yellow-green plumage, a distinct facial disc of sensory, vibrissa-like feathers, a large grey beak, short legs, large feet, and wings and a tail of relatively short length. A certain combination of traits makes it unique among its kind—it is the world's only flightless parrot, the heaviest parrot, nocturnal, herbivorous, visibly sexually dimorphic in body size, has a low basal metabolic rate, no male parental care, and is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system. It is also possibly one of the world's longest-living birds. Its anatomy typifies the tendency of bird evolution on oceanic islands, with few predators and abundant food: a generally robust physique, with accretion of thermodynamic efficiency at the expense of flight abilities, reduced wing muscles, and a diminished keel on the sternum. Like many other New Zealand bird species, the Kakapo was historically important to the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, appearing in many of their traditional legends and folklore. It was hunted and used as a resource by Māori, both for its meat as a food source and for its feathers, which were used to make highly valued pieces of clothing. It was also sometimes kept as a pet.
The Kakapo is critically endangered; as of February 2012, only 126 living individuals are known, most of which have been given names. Because of Polynesian and European colonisation and the introduction of predators such as cats, rats, ferrets, and stoats, the Kakapo was almost wiped out. Conservation efforts began in the 1890s, but they were not very successful until the implementation of the Kakapo Recovery Plan in the 1980s. As of April 2012, surviving Kakapo are kept on three predator-free islands, Codfish (Whenua Hou), Anchor and Little Barrier islands, where they are closely monitored. Two large Fiordland islands, Resolution and Secretary, have been the subject of large-scale ecological restoration activities to prepare self-sustaining ecosystems with suitable habitat for the Kakapo. The New Zealand government is willingly providing the use of these islands to Kakapo conservation.

The Kakapo was originally described by English ornithologist George Robert Gray in 1845. Its generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek strix, genitive strigos "owl", and ops "face", while its specific epithet comes from habros "soft", and ptilon "feather". It has so many unusual features that it was initially placed in its own tribe, Strigopini. Recent phylogenetic studies have confirmed the unique position of this genus as well as the closeness to the Kākā and the Kea, both belonging to the New Zealand parrot genus Nestor. Together, they are now considered a separate family within the parrots, Strigopidae. Within the Strigopidae, the Kakapo is placed in its own tribe, Strigopini. The common ancestor of the Kakapo and the genus Nestor became isolated from the remaining parrot species when New Zealand broke off from Gondwana, around 82 million years ago. Around 70 million years ago, the Kakapo diverged from the genus Nestor.
Earlier ornithologists felt that the Kakapo may be related to the ground parrots and Night Parrot of Australia due to their similar colouration, but this is contradicted by recent studies; rather, the cryptic colour seems to be adaptation to terrestrial habits that evolved twice convergently.
The name "Kakapo" is the English transliteration of "kākāpō" which is derived from the Māori terms kākā ("parrot") + pō ("night"). The Polynesian term kākā and its variant ʻāʻā were the generic South Pacific terms for Psittacidae. For example, the native names of the Kākā, the extinct Black-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus zealandicus) of Tahiti, and the New Zealand members of the genus Cyanoramphus are also derived from them.

[Image: wide_kakapo.jpg]

The Kakapo is a large, rotund parrot; the male measures up to 60 cm (24 in) and weighs from 2 to 4 kg (4 to 9 lb) at maturity. The Kakapo cannot fly, having short wings for its size and lacking the pronounced keel bone (sternum) that anchors the flight muscles of other birds. It uses its wings for balance, support, and to break its fall when leaping from trees. Unlike other land birds, the Kakapo can accumulate large amounts of body fat to store energy, making it the heaviest parrot.
The upper parts of the Kakapo have yellowish moss-green feathers barred or mottled with black or dark brownish grey, blending well with native vegetation. Individuals may have strongly varying degrees of mottling and colour tone and intensity — museum specimens show that some birds had completely yellow colouring. The breast and flank are yellowish-green streaked with yellow. The belly, undertail, neck and face are predominantly yellowish, streaked with pale green and weakly mottled with brownish-grey. Because the feathers do not need the strength and stiffness required for flight, they are exceptionally soft, giving rise to the specific epithet habroptilus. The Kakapo has a conspicuous facial disc of fine feathers, resembling the face of an owl; thus, early European settlers called it the "owl parrot". The beak is surrounded by delicate vibrissae or "whiskers", which the bird uses to sense the ground for navigation as it walks with its head lowered. The mandible is mostly ivory-coloured, with part of the upper mandible being bluish-grey. The eyes are dark brown. Kakapo feet are large, scaly, and, as in all parrots, zygodactyl (two toes face forward and two backward). The pronounced claws are particularly useful for climbing. The ends of the tail feathers often become worn from being continually dragged on the ground.
The female is easily distinguished from the male: she has a more narrow and less domed head, her beak is narrower and proportionally longer, her cere and nostrils smaller, her legs and feet more slender and pinkish grey, and her tail proportionally longer. While her plumage colour is not very different to that of male, the toning is more subtle, with less yellow and mottling. She tends to resist more and be more aggressive than the male when handled. A nesting female also has a brood patch on the bare skin of the belly.
Like many parrots, the Kakapo has a variety of calls. As well as the booms (see below for a recording) and chings of their mating calls, it will often skraark to announce its location to other birds. The Kakapo has a well-developed sense of smell, which complements its nocturnal lifestyle. It can discriminate among odours while foraging; a behaviour reported for only one other parrot species. One of the most striking characteristics of the Kakapo is its pleasant and powerful odour, which has been described as musty.  Given the Kakapo's well-developed sense of smell, this scent may be a social chemosignal. The smell often alerts predators to the largely defenseless Kakapo.
The skeleton of the Kakapo differs from other parrots in several features associated with flightlessness. Firstly, it has the smallest relative wing size of any parrot. Its wing feathers are shorter, more rounded, less asymmetrical, and have fewer distal barbules to lock the feathers together. The sternum is small, and has a low, vestigial, keel, and a shortened spina externa. As in other flightless birds and some other flighted parrots, the furcula is not fused, but consists of a pair of clavicles lying in contact with each coracoid. As in other flightless birds, the angle between the coracoid and sternum is enlarged. The Kakapo has a larger pelvis than other parrots. The proximal bones of the leg and arm are disproportionately long and the distal elements are disproportionately short. The pectoral musculature of the Kakapo is also modified by flightlessness. The pectoralis and supracoracoideus muscles are greatly reduced. The propatagialis tendo longus has no distinct muscle belly. The sternocoracoideus is tendinous. There is an extensive cucularis capitis clavicularis muscle that is associated with the large crop.

[Image: kakapo600.jpg?width=460]

It seems that the Kakapo — like many of New Zealand's bird species — has evolved to occupy an ecological niche normally filled by various species of mammal (the only non-marine mammals native to New Zealand are three species of small bats). Before the arrival of humans, the Kakapo was distributed throughout the three main islands of New Zealand. It lived in a variety of habitats, including tussocklands, scrublands and coastal areas. It also inhabited forests, including those dominated by podocarps (rimu, matai, kahikatea, totara), beeches, tawa, and rata. In Fiordland, areas of avalanche and slip debris with regenerating and heavily fruiting vegetation — such as five finger, wineberry, bush lawyer, tutu, hebes, and coprosmas — became known as "Kakapo gardens".
The Kakapo is primarily nocturnal; it roosts under cover in trees or on the ground during the day and moves around its territories at night. Though the Kakapo cannot fly, it is an excellent climber, ascending to the crowns of the tallest trees. It can also "parachute" - descending by leaping and spreading its wings. In this way it may travel a few metres (yards) at an angle of less than 45 degrees. Having lost the ability to fly, it has developed strong legs. Movement is often by way of a rapid "jog-like" gait by which it can move many kilometres (miles). A female has been observed making two return trips each night during nesting from her nest to a food source up to 1 km (0.6 mi) away and the male may walk from its home range to a mating arena up to 5 km (3 mi) away during the mating season (October–January).
Young birds indulge in play fighting and one bird will often lock the neck of another under its chin.  The Kakapo is curious by nature and has been known to interact with humans. Conservation staff and volunteers have engaged extensively with some Kakapo, which have distinct personalities. The Kakapo was a very successful species in pre-human New Zealand and one of the reasons for this was their set of adaptations to effectively avoid predation from native birds of prey, which were their only predators in the past. However, these same behaviours have been of no use to them when faced with the mammalian predators which were introduced to New Zealand after human settlement, because these hunt in different ways. As hunters, birds behave very differently to mammals, relying on their powerful vision to find prey and thus, they usually, (with the exception of owls) hunt by day. Apart from the two surviving New Zealand raptors, the New Zealand Falcon and Swamp Harrier, there were two other birds of prey in pre-human New Zealand: Haast's Eagle and Eyles' Harrier. All four species soared overhead searching for prey in daylight and to avoid these avian predators, the Kakapo's ancestors adopted camouflaged plumage and became nocturnal. In addition, when the Kakapo feels threatened, it freezes, so that it is more effectively camouflaged in the forest vegetation which their plumage resembles. It was not entirely safe at night when the Laughing Owl was active and it is apparent from their nest deposits on Canterbury limestone cliffs that the Kakapo was among their prey.
Mammalian predators, in contrast to birds, rely on their sense of smell and hearing to find prey and often hunt by night. The Kakapo's adaptations to avoid avian predation have thus been useless against its new enemies - this is one of the reasons for its massive decline since the introduction of dogs, cats and mustelids - see Conservation: Human impact. A typical way for humans to hunt down the Kakapo is by releasing trained dogs.
The beak of the Kakapo is adapted for grinding food finely. For this reason, the Kakapo has a very small gizzard compared to other birds of their size. It is generally herbivorous, eating native plants, seeds, fruits, pollen and even the sapwood of trees. A study in 1984 identified 25 plant species as Kakapo food. It is particularly fond of the fruit of the rimu tree, and will feed on it exclusively during seasons when it is abundant. The Kakapo has a distinctive habit of grabbing a leaf or frond with a foot and stripping the nutritious parts of the plant out with its beak, leaving a ball of indigestible fiber. These little clumps of plant fibres are a distinctive sign of the presence of the bird. The Kakapo is believed to employ bacteria in the foregut to ferment and help digest plant matter.
Kakapo diet changes according to the season. The plants eaten most frequently during the year include some species of Lycopodium ramulosum, Lycopodium fastigium, Schizaea fistulosa, Blechnum minus, Blechnum procerum, Cyathodes juniperina, Dracophyllum longifolium, Olearia colensoi and Thelymitra venosa. Individual plants of the same species are often treated differently. The Kakapo leaves conspicuous evidence of their feeding activities, from 10×10 m (30×30 ft) to 50×100 m (160×300 ft) feeding ground areas.  Manuka and yellow silver pine scrubs are obvious signs of its centre of feeding activities.
The Kakapo is the only species of flightless parrot in the world, and the only flightless bird that has a lek breeding system. Males loosely gather in an arena and compete with each other to attract females. Females listen to the males as they display, or "lek". They choose a mate based on the quality of his display; they are not pursued by the males in any overt way. No pair bond is formed; males and females meet only to mate.
During the courting season, males leave their home ranges for hilltops and ridges where they establish their own mating courts. These leks can be up to 7 kilometres (4 mi) from a Kakapo's usual territory and are an average of 50 metres (160 ft) apart within the lek arena. Males remain in the region of their court throughout the courting season. At the start of the breeding season, males will fight to try to secure the best courts. They confront each other with raised feathers, spread wings, open beaks, raised claws and loud screeching and growling. Fighting may leave birds with injuries or even kill them.
Each court consists of one or more saucer-shaped depressions or "bowls" dug in the ground by the male, up to 10 centimetres (4 in) deep and long enough to fit the half-metre length of the bird. The Kakapo is one of only a handful of birds in the world which actually constructs its leks. Bowls are often created next to rock faces, banks, or tree trunks to help reflect sound the bowls themselves function as amplifiers to enhance the projection of the males booming mating calls. Each male’s bowls are connected by a network of trails or tracks which may extend 50 metres (160 ft) along a ridge or 20 metres (60 ft) in diameter around a hilltop. Males meticulously clear their bowls and tracks of debris. One way researchers check whether bowls are visited at night is to place a few twigs in the bowl; if the male visits overnight, he will pick them up in his beak and toss them away.
To attract females, males make loud, low-frequency (below 100 Hz) booming calls from their bowls by inflating a thoracic sac. They start with low grunts, which increase in volume as the sac inflates. After a sequence of about 20 loud booms, the male Kakapo emits a high frequency, metallic "ching" sound. He stands for a short while before again lowering his head, inflating his chest and starting another sequence of booms. The booms can be heard at least one kilometre (0.6 mi) away on a still night; wind can carry the sound at least five kilometres (3 mi). Males boom for an average of eight hours a night; each male may produce thousands of booms in this time. This may continue every night for three or four months during which time the male may lose half his body weight. Each male moves around the bowls in his court so that the booms are sent out in different directions. These booms are also notorious for attracting predators, because of the long range at which they can be heard.
Females are attracted by the booms of the competing males; they too may need to walk several kilometres from their territories to the arena. Once a female enters the court of one of the males, the male performs a display in which he rocks from side to side and makes clicking noises with his beak. He turns his back to the female, spreads his wings in display and walks backwards towards her. The duration of attempted copulation is between 2 to 14 minutes. Once the birds have mated, the female returns to her home territory to lay eggs and raise the chicks. The male continues booming in the hope of attracting another female.
The female Kakapo lays up to three eggs per breeding cycle. She nests on the ground under the cover of plants or in cavities such as hollow tree trunks. The female incubates the eggs faithfully, but is forced to leave them every night in search of food. Predators are known to eat the eggs and the embryos inside can also die of cold in the mother's absence. Kakapo eggs usually hatch within 30 days bearing fluffy gray chicks that are quite helpless. After the eggs hatch, the female feeds the chicks for three months, and the chicks continue to remain with the female for some months after fledging. The young chicks are just as vulnerable to predators as the eggs, and young have been killed by many of the same predators that attack adults. Chicks leave the nest at approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age. As they gain greater independence, their mothers may feed the chicks sporadically for up to 6 months.
Because the Kakapo is long-lived, with an average life expectancy of 95 years and the maximum at about 120 years, it tends to have an adolescence before it starts breeding. Males do not start to boom until about 5 years of age. It was thought that females reach sexual maturity at 9 years of age; but this idea was debunked in the 2008 breeding season when two 6-year-old females named Apirama and Rakiura laid eggs. Generally females do not seek out males until they are between 9 and 11-years-old. The Kakapo does not breed every year and has one of the lowest rates of reproduction among birds. Breeding occurs only in years when trees mast (fruit heavily), providing a plentiful food supply. Rimu mast occurs only every three to five years, so in rimu-dominant forests such as those on Codfish Island, Kakapo breeding occurs as infrequently.
Another interesting aspect of the Kakapo's breeding system is that a female can alter the sex ratio of her offspring depending on her condition. A female that eats protein-rich foods produces more male offspring (males have 3%–40% more body weight than females). Females produce offspring biased toward the dispersive sex when competition for resources (such as food) is high and toward the non-dispersive sex when food is plentiful. A female Kakapo will likely be able to produce eggs even when there are few resources, while a male Kakapo will be more capable of perpetuating the species when there are plenty, by mating with several females. The relationship between clutch sex ratio and maternal diet has conservation implications, because a captive population maintained on a high quality diet will produce fewer females and therefore fewer individuals valuable to the recovery of the species.

[Image: kakapoChick311.jpg]

Fossil records indicate that in pre-Polynesian times, the Kakapo was New Zealand's third most common bird and it was widespread on all three main islands. However, the population of Kakapo in New Zealand has declined massively since human settlement of the country. Since 1891, conservation efforts have been made to prevent extinction. The most successful scheme has been the Kakapo Recovery Plan; this was implemented in 1989 and is still ongoing.
The first factor in the decline of the Kakapo was the arrival of humans. Māori folklore suggests that the Kakapo was found throughout the country when the Polynesians first arrived in Aotearoa 700 years ago subfossil and midden deposits show that the bird was present throughout the North Island, South Island and Stewart Island/Rakiura before and during early Māori times. Māori hunted the Kakapo for food and for their skins and feathers, which were made into cloaks. They used the dried heads as ear ornaments. Due to its flightlessness, strong scent and habit of freezing when threatened, the Kakapo was easy prey for the Māori and their dogs. Its eggs and chicks were also predated by the Polynesian Rat or kiore, which the Māori brought to New Zealand. Furthermore, the deliberate clearing of vegetation by Māori reduced the habitable range for Kakapo. Although the Kakapo was extinct in many parts of the islands by the time Europeans arrived, including the Tararua and Aorangi Ranges, it was still present in the central part of the North Island and forested parts of the South Island.
Beginning in the 1840s, European settlers cleared vast tracts of land for farming and grazing, further reducing Kakapo habitat. They brought more dogs and other mammalian predators, including domestic cats, black rats and stoats. Europeans knew little of the Kakapo until George Gray of the British Museum described it from a skin in 1845. As the Māori had done, early European explorers and their dogs ate Kakapo. In the late 19th century, the Kakapo became well known as a scientific curiosity, and thousands were captured or killed for zoos, museums and collectors. Most captured specimens died within months. From at least the 1870s, collectors knew the Kakapo population was declining; their prime concern was to collect as many as possible before the bird became extinct. 
In the 1880s, large numbers of mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels) were released in New Zealand to reduce rabbit numbers,  but they also preyed heavily on many native species including the Kakapo. Other browsing animals, such as introduced deer, competed with the Kakapo for food, and caused the extinction of some of its preferred plant species. The Kakapo was reportedly still present near the head of the Whanganui River as late as 1894, with one of the last records of a Kakapo in the North Island being a single bird caught in the Kaimanawa Ranges by Te Kepa Puawheawhe in 1895.
In 1989, a Kakapo Recovery Plan was developed and a Kakapo Recovery Group established to implement it. The New Zealand Department of Conservation replaced the Wildlife Service for this task. The first action of the plan was to relocate all the remaining Kakapo to suitable islands for them to breed. None of the New Zealand islands were ideal to establish Kakapo without rehabilitation by extensive revegetation and the eradication of introduced mammalian predators and competitors. Four islands were finally chosen: Maud, Hauturu/Little Barrier, Codfish and Mana. Sixty-five Kakapo (43 males, 22 females) were successfully transferred onto the four islands in five translocations. Some islands had to be rehabilitated several times when feral cats, stoats and weka kept appearing. Little Barrier Island was eventually viewed as unsuitable due to the rugged landscape, the thick forest and the continued presence of rats, and its birds were evacuated in 1998. Along with Mana Island, it was replaced with two new Kakapo sanctuaries, Chalky Island (Te Kakahu) and Anchor Island. The entire Kakapo population of Codfish Island was temporarily relocated in 1999 to Pearl Island in Port Pegasus while rats were being eliminated from Codfish. All Kakapo on Pearl and Chalky Islands were moved to Anchor Island in 2005.
A key part of the Recovery Plan is the supplementary feeding of females. The Kakapo breeds only once every two to five years, when a certain type of plant species, primarily Dacrydium cupressinum (rimu), produces protein-rich fruit and seeds. Observations of the relationship between intermittent breeding and the plant's mast year help biologists choose which suitable supplementary foods to increase Kakapo breeding frequency. In 1989, six preferred foods (apples, sweet potatoes, almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and walnuts) were supplied ad libitum each night to 12 feeding stations. Males and females ate the supplied foods, and females nested on Little Barrier Island in the summers of 1989–91 for the first time since 1982, although nesting success was low due to a persistant polynesian rat population.
The Kakapo Recovery Plan has been a successful programme, with the numbers of Kakapo increasing steadily. Adult survival rate and productivity have both improved significantly since the programme's inception. However, the main goal is to establish at least one viable, self-sustaining, unmanaged population of Kakapo as a functional component of the ecosystem in a protected habitat. To help meet this conservation challenge, two large Fiordland islands, Resolution (20,860 ha) and Secretary (8,140 ha), have been prepared for re-introduction of the Kakapo with large-scale ecological restoration activities.

[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTD6eS37vjdzL_lDwQrm9S...OzqdSwM8eJ]

In Maori Culture
The Kakapo is associated with a rich tradition of Māori folklore and beliefs. The bird's irregular breeding cycle was understood to be associated with heavy fruiting or "masting" events of particular plant species such as the Rimu which led Māori to credit the bird with the ability to foretell the future. Used to substantiate this claim were reported observations of these birds dropping the berries of the Hinau and Tawa trees (when they were in season) into secluded pools of water to preserve them as a food supply for the summer ahead; in legend this became the origin of the Māori practice of immersing food in water for the same purpose.
The meat of Kakapo made good eating and was considered by Māori to be a delicacy and it was hunted for food when it was still widespread. One source states that its flesh "resembles lamb in taste and texture", although European settlers have described the bird as having a "strong and slightly stringent [sic] flavour". In breeding years, the loud booming calls of the males at their mating arenas made it easy for Māori hunting parties to track the Kakapo down, and it was also hunted while feeding or when dustbathing in dry weather. The bird was caught, generally at night, using snares, pitfall traps, or by groups of domesticated Polynesian dogs which accompanied hunting parties — sometimes they would use fire sticks of various sorts to dazzle a bird in the darkness, stopping it in their tracks and making the capture easier. Cooking was done in a hāngi or in gourds of boiling oil. The flesh of the bird could be preserved in its own fat and stored in containers for later consumption — hunters of the Ngāi Tahu tribe would pack the flesh in baskets made from the inner bark of Totara tree or in containers constructed from kelp. Bundles of Kakapo tail feathers were attached to the sides of these containers to provide decoration and a way to identify their contents. Also taken by the Māori were the bird's eggs, which are described as whitish "but not pure white", and about the same size as a kererū egg.
As well as eating the meat of the Kakapo, Māori would use Kakapo skins with the feathers still attached or individually weave in Kakapo feathers with flax fibre to create cloaks and capes. Each one required up to 11,000 feathers to make. Not only were these garments very beautiful, they also kept the wearer very warm. They were highly valued, and the few still in existence today are considered taonga (treasures) — indeed, the old Māori adage "You have a Kākāpō cape and you still complain of the cold" was used to describe someone who is never satisfied. Kakapo feathers were also used to decorate the heads of taiaha, but were removed before use in combat.
Despite this, the Kakapo was also regarded as an affectionate pet by the Māori. This was corroborated by European settlers in New Zealand in the 19th century, among them George Edward Grey, who once wrote in a letter to an associate that his pet Kakapo's behavior towards him and his friends was "more like that of a dog than a bird".

[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSFzOkECww0thL6sS7lSbi..._evwdSFzhB]
Vivyx: Wrote:Some interesting information detailing aggressive and violent behaviour by kakapo in interspecific conflict:

kakapo have killed Cook’s petrels (Pterodroma cookii)
that ventured on or near their courts at night (DVM pers.
obs.), indicating an aggressive nature towards intruders.
Likewise, an incubating female kakapo on Codfish Island
(Whenua Hou) repeatedly attacked a Cook’s petrel when
it approached the cavity in which both were nesting
(Higgins 1999). Cook’s petrels have occasionally been
found dead in or near kakapo nests on Little Barrier
and Codfish Islands, and were considered to have been
killed by kakapo (Higgins1999). Henry (cited in Hill & Hill
1987) also commented that female kakapo were fiercely
protective of their young, charging his dog savagely when
it approached their nests. Therefore, it seems likely that
nesting female kakapo would attack a stoat or cat near
their nests, rather than fleeing, and as a result were
frequently killed during such encounters. This behaviour
contrasts with that of bird species that have evolved with
predatory mammals and so developed a survival strategy
whereby they readily desert their nests.

Kakapo also seem to be quite combative towards each other:

"Smoko was one of the original kakapo from Stewart Island, but despite his death following a fight with another male, he has previously fathered chicks, and had mated just a few days before his body was found."

"While attracting females, male kakapo parrots start to fight with each other. Their fights are extremely violent and some time they fight till death."

"After a period of aggression between males to secure the best sites, during which fights can lead to injury or even death"

Kakapo intraspecific conflict

"A kakapo will give other kakapo in the area a berth of several hundred meters; if they are forced to spend time together, kakapo will actually fight to the death."
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Rare kakapo parrots have best breeding season on record

17 April 2019

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Kakapo were one of New Zealand's most common birds, but are now on the brink of extinction

Kakapos - the world's fattest species of parrot - have had their most successful breeding season on record, according to New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC).
The flightless, nocturnal parrots were once one of the country's most common birds, but only 147 adults are left.
This year, 76 chicks have been hatched under the DOC's conservation scheme, with 60 expected to reach adulthood.
The new batch is more than double that of the last breeding season in 2016.
Kakapos only breed every two to four years when their favourite fruit grows in New Zealand's Rimu trees - the period is known as a "mast year".
Their numbers have also been curbed by hunting, deforestation, and predators like stoats which were introduced by European settlers.
One scientific advisor to the DOC, Dr Andrew Digby, says scientists have seen bumper quantities of fruit on Rimu trees in recent years, an occurrence possibly caused by climate change. With so much fruit, many female kakapos have bred earlier and, in some cases, laid two clutches of eggs.

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All newborn kakapo chicks are raised in a secure facility before being released into the wild

Until the 1970s, kakapos were thought to be extinct but a group was discovered on Stewart Island, south of the country's South Island.
Just 18 were known to exist by 1977, but New Zealand's DOC has spearheaded efforts to boost its population on two remote, predator-free islands.
Under the scheme, all newborn kakapo chicks are raised in a secure facility and later released into the wild, tagged with a transmitter.
Each parrot also has its nest fitted with sensors and cameras, and is given a tailored diet via nearby feeding stations.
"They don't get a lot of privacy," Dr Digby said.
"I can log online and see what they're doing, see who they've mated with, how long for, and even the quality of the mating.
"It's probably one of the most intensively managed species in the world, certainly in New Zealand."

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The DOC says it wants to see 500 kakapos in the wild, but is "attempting to back off" with each new breeding season

To raise awareness of the bird and the DOC's work, the department hosted a "chick viewing session" earlier this month.
The DOC also has an "advocacy" kakapo, named Sirocco, who tours the country as an Official Spokesbird for Conservation.
"People fall in love with them," said Dr Digby. "They don't behave like a bird, they're a little bit human.
"They even look like a grumpy old man and they all have different personalities," he added.
Looking ahead, Dr Digby said the DOC wants to see population levels hit 500, but is "continually attempting to back off, with a bit less intensity each breeding season."
"The aim of our programme is for every child to grow up knowing what a kakapo is, just like an elephant or a lion."
[Image: wildcat10-CougarHuntingDeer.jpg]
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Parrot world's endangered heavyweight faces new threat

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The setback comes just weeks after scientists hailed a bumper breeding season for the flightless, nocturnal bird, which was once thought to be extinct

An unprecedented disease outbreak has pushed the critically endangered kakapo, the world's fattest parrot, closer to extinction, New Zealand scientists said Thursday.
One of the last kakapo populations on remote Codfish Island has been hit with a fungal respiratory disease called aspergillosis, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said.
It said 36 of the parrots were receiving treatment and seven had died, including two adults—a huge loss for a species which has less than 150 fully grown birds left.
"Aspergillosis is having a devastating impact on kakapo," the DOC said in a statement Thursday.
The setback comes just weeks after scientists hailed a bumper breeding season for the flightless, nocturnal bird, which was once thought to be extinct.
An intense, decades-long conservation effort has seen kakapo numbers slowly rise from a low of about 50 in 1990, and earlier this year there was hope the species was turning the corner.
The breeding programme resulted in 249 eggs laid, fuelling expectations at least 75 chicks would survive the year, more than double the previous record.
But Auckland Zoo veterinarian James Chatterton said efforts were now focussed on saving the birds infected by aspergillosis, which before this year was known to have killed just one kakapo.

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The kakapo - 'night parrot' in Maori - only mates every two to four years when New Zealand's native rimu trees are full of fruit

"It's an unprecedented threat and we're working really hard to understand why it's happened this year," he told TVNZ.
"Our working theory at the moment is that it's this year's climate—it's been a really warm year down south."
The hypothesis is that the warm weather and crowded breeding nests on Codfish Island have led to an abundance of aspergillosis spores.
The plump, green kakapo—the name means "night parrot" in Maori—was once so common an early European explorer said they could be shaken from the trees like apples.
Numbers fell as introduced pests such as stoats, cats and dogs hunted the ground-dwelling birds, which can weight up to four kilograms (nine pounds).
Their slow breeding further harmed the kakapo's chances of survival, as they only mate every two to four years when New Zealand's native rimu trees are full of fruit.
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