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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Amaze-wing Facts About The Kakapo For Kids

Kakapo facts and information are educational.

Kakapos (Strigops habroptilus) are flightless birds that are endemic to New Zealand. They are large parrots with soft green feathers, and a disc-like face resembling much of that of an owl. They have strong short legs and a large gray beak. They have a posture resembling penguins and a walk like that of ducks. With a calm demeanor and easily tameable nature, they are one of the strangest and rarest birds on Earth. Their bodies are covered in moss-green feathers which helps them in camouflaging with their environment to help them avoid predators. With a slow metabolic rate, kakapos are one of the longest living birds in the world, with a reported lifespan of up to 100 years.

Sadly due to the introduction of cats and other animals by human settlements in New Zealand, these birds were almost hunted and preyed to the brink of extinction. With no close relative, the extinction of kakapo will completely wipe out the species with no way to recreate them. As stated in 2019, the Department of Conservation ranked kakapo as Nationally Critical in New Zealand. With great conservation efforts and protection by the New Zealand government, the remaining kakapo population were moved to kakapo recovery centers and are cared for and protected in these centers.

If you liked these facts about the kakapo, then you'll surely like these facts about birds of paradise and barn owl too!

Kakapo Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Kakapo?

Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) also known as the Owl Parrot or Night Parrot, is a giant, flightless parrot of New Zealand that is nocturnal. These birds are critically endangered. They have short wings and a posture similar to that of the penguin and the walk of a duck. The kakapo parrot is extremely tame and is one of the rarest birds on Earth.

What class of animal does a Kakapo belong to?

The kakapo bird belongs to the Aves class of animals. The Aves class consists solely of birds.

Birds are known to be warm-blooded vertebrates that are characterized by their feathers, laying of hard-shelled eggs, toothless beaked jaws, a four-chambered heart, and a lightweight yet strong skeleton.

How many Kakapo are there in the world?

As of 2020, there are only 211 adult kakapos alive in the world. They are currently preserved in the remote Codfish island, or Whenua Hou and Puke Nui which is also known as Anchor Island. With a plan to protect this remaining population, rangers, and volunteers put in a lot of effort to help with their conservation and help in their breeding season to keep the population at an increasing number.

Where does a Kakapo live?

Before their population was brought down to the state of being critically endangered due to the introduction of predators like cats, kakapos were found to live in the entirety of New Zealand. They were commonly found in scrublands and coastal areas.

What is a Kakapo's habitat?

These large, flightless birds were considered to be habitat generalists. Now, however, they are confined to New Zealand's Codfish Island, or Whenua Hou.

They were known to be able to survive through most weather on the islands of New Zealand, with cases of them surviving in extreme heat on the North Island and extremely cold conditions of the sub-alpine areas of Fiordland. Kakapos seem to have favored broadleaf or forests with mild winters and high rainfall. Even though kakapos lived in forests, these parrot species were not exclusively forest-dwelling.

Who do Kakapos live with?

Kakapos are nocturnal and solitary in nature and occupy the same home range for many years. They are flightless birds but are excellent climbers and can reach the peak of a tree easily. They forage on the ground and often can be found leaping from trees and flapping their wings to manage a controlled plummet.

How long does a Kakapo live?

Due to their slow metabolism and large bodies in comparison to other parrots, kakapos tend to have an extended lifespan and are one of the world's longest-living bird species. Their lifespan can range from anywhere in between 40-80 years. With the oldest kakapo having been recorded to live up to 125 years.

How do they reproduce?

Kakapos live slow, age slow and they breed slow! The fruit from the Rimu tree fuels the reproduction of the kakapos and their breeding season revolves around it. They only breed when the trees produce a bumper crop which is about once every four years!

Adult male kakapos, use the Lek mating system where the males construct a pathway to mating arenas called 'leks' where a number of males gather to call out in the form of low-frequency 'booms' and after a wave of 20-30 booms, they switch to a high-pitched 'ching'. After the female has taken notice of these low and calls, the males will try to attract females in order to mate with them.

Females lay one to four eggs in a shallow depression in the rotten wood or soil and the eggs are turned over before and during incubation. The male plays no part in chick-rearing.

What is their conservation status?

The kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), once abundantly found in New Zealand's various geographical regions, are now on the brink of extinction with a mere 210 kakapo individuals existing in their predator-free island habitats.

To save them from these mammalian predators and keep their population at a safe number, all living kakapos were transferred to predator-free islands like the Little Barrier Island and the Codfish Island in the past two decades, and surprisingly they have adapted well to these changes in the food plants and environment. With a great supplementary feeding program and extra effort on conservation, the population of this bird increases every year on the island they are protected on.

Kakapo Fun Facts

What do Kakapos look like?

The kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) are a large parrot species and are also known as Night Parrot. They are the heaviest parrot in the world and have moss-green feathers that allow them to use trees and leaves as these green feathers act as a means of camouflage in case of predator attack. These flightless birds are ground and tree-dwellers have an owl-like face, with a long, rounded tail and a blunt, pale yellow bill. They are generally tame and docile.

Kakapo facts are informative.

How cute are they?

Their owl-like face justifies the name Owl Parrot. These goofy little birds are cute to look at and their penguin-like stature and duck-like walk add to the cuteness factor! They are tame birds and get curious around people.

How do they communicate?

Kakapo communicates through vocalizations. They make deep booming and a loud wheezing call to attract mates. Both males and females make a loud 'skraak' sound.

How big is a Kakapo?

Out of all the parrot species, the kakapo is one of the biggest, with adults measuring from anywhere between 22.8-25.2 in (58-64 cm) in length.

How fast can a Kakapo fly?

The kakapo is a flightless parrot and hence cannot fly. However, they do use their wings as a means of balance when climbing trees and venturing through their habitat. They can run on the ground to escape predators at a maximum speed of 5 mph (8 kph)!

How much does a Kakapo weigh?

The kakapo is a sexually dimorphic bird, meaning the males are larger than the female in most aspects of the physical traits. Out of all the parrots, the kakapo is the heaviest. The male kakapo has an average weight of 4.4-6.6 lb (2-3 kg), and females average 3.1 lb (1.4 kg) in weight. They weigh an average of 14.1 oz (400 g) more than the largest flying parrots, the Hyacinth Macaw.

What are their male and female names of the species?

No particular name has been assigned to the specific gender of the species.

What would you call a baby Kakapo?

Baby kakapos are called chicks. Chicks are raised by the females solely. With a stronger conservation effort, chicks are reared in captivity with the best care.

What do they eat?

Kakapos are strictly herbivores and only feed on plants. Their feeding habits include having a diverse diet of rimu branches, supplejack vines, and orchard tubers.

Are they dangerous?

No. Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) are harmless, docile creatures. They are curious beings and will approach humans out of curiosity and with no ill intent to cause harm.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes, they would. A record by George Edward Grey, an English ornithologist suggests that his pet kakapo was more like a dog than a bird!

Despite them being dog-like in behavior, these endangered ground and tree-dwellers should not be kept as pets. If you are to find a kakapo, you should hand it over to the concerned authority right away as we should prioritize their conservation over other things.

Did you know...

The kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) has strong legs as they are excellent climbers and hikers.

If you love the smell of honey, you'll love the kakapo as they are said to smell exactly like honey.

Their self-defense mechanism is to freeze and try to blend into the background. This works on predators that rely on sight rather than smell to hunt.

All 211 kakapos in kakapo recovery centers have cool names!

Kakapo are friendly even in the wild. This was demonstrated by a kakapo named Sirocco who tried to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine's head!

Kākāpō literally translates to 'night parrot' in Maori as they were active only during the night like an owl.

The breeding season for kakapo comes in a gap of two to four years, as they depend on the rimu tree's best fruit production season.

With an amazing conservation effort by the concerned authorities, the number of the kakapo population is growing steadily.

Why kakapo are endangered?

Before European and other settlers came to New Zealand, kakapos were found in abundance in the North and South Island of New Zealand. Their only natural predator was eagles. Due to the lack of natural predators, these large birds never had a reason to learn to fly and thus have remained flightless birds ever since to this day.

Humans played the biggest part in the kakapo population going almost extinct as they hunt them for meat, feathers, and other parts of their bodies. With settlers, came new predators like the cats, and stoats. The number of kakapos decreased as they fell prey to these mammalian predators and they soon became critically endangered as they lacked a mode of self-defense.

Symbolism of the Kakapo

The Maori have a strong traditional and cultural association with the kakapo, naming it the 'night parrot'. The Maoris hunted kakapo, made garments out of its feathers, and cloaks out of its skin. These cloaks were only for people with high status in society.

To this day still, the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is considered to be one of the rarest and strangest birds of New Zealand. Their conservation is of utmost importance to the New Zealand government as they try to keep these birds from going extinct by breeding them successfully and augmenting a supplementary feeding program along with safe artificial incubation to help regrow their population.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including Carolina parakeet, or great green macaw.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Kakapo coloring pages.

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