The Kakapo or owl parrot is a nocturnal flightless bird from the Nestoridae family.
Habitat of kakapo
Kakapo is endemic to New Zealand. Scientists suggest that the kakapo is one of the oldest living bird species.
A unique feature of these birds is their complete inability to fly. This was facilitated by the kakapo habitats, with no natural enemies.
The kakapo has wings, but the muscles are almost completely atrophied.
The kakapo has the smallest relative wing size of any parrot. Its wing feathers are shorter, more rounded, less asymmetrical, and have fewer distal pins connecting the wings together. The rib cage is small, has a low rudimentary keel and a shortened outer part of the spine. Like other flightless birds, the kakapo fork does not grow together, but consists of a pair of collarbones in contact with each coracoid. The angle consisting of the coracoid processes and the sternum is widened. The pelvis is wider than that of other members of the order. The proximal bones of the legs and wings are disproportionately long, and the distal elements are shortened.
The pectoral muscles of the kakapo are also altered due to the loss of the ability to fly. The pectoral and supra-marginal muscles are significantly contracted. The propatagial tendon does not have a well-defined muscular abdomen.
The plumage of the kakapo is yellow-green in color with black specks, has a characteristic sensitive facial disc, vibrissa-shaped feathers, a huge gray beak, short legs, huge feet and small wings, and a relatively short tail.
Kakapos are large parrots. Their weight reaches 4 kilograms. The body length is about 60 cm. Due to the camouflage yellow-green plumage with black spots, it is difficult to see the kakapo in dense vegetation.
Sexual dimorphism in body size is observed in males and females.
Since the kakapos lost their ability to fly during evolution, they developed leg muscles instead. Clumsy-looking birds nimbly move along the ground, deftly climb the trunks of trees, grabbing the branches with their beak. Climbing high, jump down, glide on spread wings.
Kakapo lifestyle and food
For the world’s only flightless parrot, the habitat is the humid forests of the islands of New Zealand. Currently, this unique bird lives only on the South Island of the archipelago. There grow tall conifers – dacridiums, the fruits of which feed on kakapo. The intertwined roots serve as a refuge: inside these natural hiding places, parrots sleep and wait out the weather.
Each adult has its own habitat: solitary living is characteristic of owl parrots. Birds are found only for procreation. In the mating season, the male, going in search of a partner, walks about eight kilometers in one day. Kakapo leads a terrestrial life, and climbs trees to pick fruits. It moves along well-trodden paths, freezes in place if it feels danger.
The bird’s diet includes only plant food: berries, seeds and stems of herbs, roots. A favorite delicacy is pollen. The way kakapo feeds is unique in its own way: its beak is designed so that it can grind food. Therefore, kakapo chooses soft plants, chews them without picking them off, draws out the juice. After a meal, fibrous lumps remain on the grass. Of all the fruits, the bird prefers the fruits of the dacridium tree (rimu) – they become the main food in fruitful years. Such a delicious diet is good for the reproductive system. Rimu fruits contain vitamin D in the amount necessary for the sexual instinct to arise.
It is not for nothing that Kakapo is called an owl parrot – during the day it sits in a hole, and after sunset it gets out and begins to walk around its territory. Vibrissa-shaped feathers around the beak help it navigate in space.
The sounds that the kakapo makes are also unusual. They resemble the creak of trees during a storm, the grunt of a pig and even a donkey’s cry. These sounds are unpleasant to the human ear.
One of the unusual characteristics of kakapo is its strong yet pleasant smell, similar to the smell of flowers and honey or beeswax.
Kakapo reaches puberty by the age of five to six years. Since the flightless parrot leads a solitary lifestyle, the male and female must meet in order to continue the genus. This is not easy to do, since the area of residence of one individual sometimes occupies from 20 to 50 hectares. To find a mate and attract her attention, the male conducts an exhausting mating ritual:
– climbs to the top of the hill, inflates the throat sac and calls on the female with a loud rumbling;
– digs a depression in the ground, lowers his head in the middle and emits a signal that is heard at a distance of 5 kilometers;
– Repeatedly repeats his call – “tokens”.
One male may have several such resonating pits. For three months, the male, ready for breeding, walks around his pits every night. Due to long walks, the walking parrot loses up to half of its weight.
Hearing the call, the female goes in the direction of the sound. If mutual sympathy arises between the birds, mating will follow. Then the female equips the nest.
Their nests are dug holes in the core of a rotten stump or tree, as well as crevices in rocks. It happens that two entrances lead to the nesting hole, from which tunnels are several tens of centimeters long, and a chamber is equipped in the depths.
Eggs are laid in January-February. There are usually 2 eggs in a clutch. The female incubates the chicks alone, and her partner goes in search of a new friend. Having a tendency to polygamy, the parrot fertilizes more than one female during the mating season, but does not participate in the process of feeding the chicks.
Population status and protection of kakapo
Kakapo is in the CR category (taxa in critical condition). As of January 2019, 147 individuals are known, all individuals are known, many of them were given names. Due to the absence of mammalian predators in New Zealand, the kakapo lost the ability to fly. Due to the colonization of the islands by the Polynesians and Europeans, who brought rats, cats and ermines to the island, a large number of owl parrots were exterminated.
Kakapo is on the verge of extinction. In the IUCN Red List.