Oceania,  Rare birds

Where can I see a Kakapo in the wild?

The Kakapo is undoubtedly one of the rarest birds in the world. If you dream of seeing one in the wild, then you are going to have to be very patient!

Introducing the Kakapo

These parrots are unusual birds in that they are flightless, nocturnal, practises lek-breeding and is extremely long-lived. It is estimated that they can live for 90 years. When one realises that these large birds are flightless, and that they live in forests, its rather flecked plumage makes perfect sense. It provides fantastic camouflage amongst the leaves and undergrowth on the forest floor.


A bit of history


Kakapos used to be extremely common on mainland New Zealand. With the arrival of man, around 700 years ago, the population was put under pressure from hunting, habitat destruction and introduced species such as dogs and rats. Over the years the population dwindled. Conservation efforts were begun in 1894 when the government appointed Richard Henry to lead a project to establish a population on one of the islands that was, at the time, predator free. Unfortunately, various predators did manage to establish themselves on Resolution Island resulting in the demise of the colony.


During the latter half of the 20th century there were numerous unsuccessful expeditions to relocate any remaining birds on the mainland, but few birds were found, and they all happened to be males.


The real breakthrough came when around 200 birds, including females, were found on Rakiura. The introduction of cats made a big dent in the population and only 51 individuals were left. Conservation efforts changed tactics and started clearing all predators from various islands so that Kakapos could be introduced.


This program has been more successful, and the population has grown to around 250.


Where do you see a Kakapo in the wild?


As a keen birder I am sure that you would love to see a Kakapo in the wild. So where do you go to find one? It appears that no Kakapos remain on the north and south islands of New Zealand. If they are still present it would be in the remotest, most inhospitable areas.


The remaining populations live on a handful of islands but, and here is the bad news, they are not accessible to visitors. As frustrating as this is it is in the interests of the Kakapo and its survival. But, and you are really going to need to be patient, it is quite possible that in years from now, the population would have grown sufficiently that they may be re-introduced to places that might be accessible to visitors.

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