The World’s Heaviest Parrot: The Kakapo

I forgot when I stumbled onto this critically endangered bird.  The Kakapo is found in New Zealand and there are only 248 alive in the world.  The threats that they face are numerous including genetic inbreeding and infertility.  These were caused by the the introduction of predators such as cats and stoats.  Rats go for the eggs too.  There is also a respiratory disease caused by the fungus aspergillus, which has laid waste to the population.  There is a conservation program that is hoping to help them recover, but it is a major uphill battle.  One tactic has been to keep them on two predator free islands where they are monitored while other island are located.

Now, what is a Kakapo?

This is a large, flightless parrot that weighs 4.4-8.8 pounds.  They are nocturnal and live on the ground, which is why they are susceptible to predators.  Kakapo are also called owl parrots because they have a round face with forward-facing eyes.  They are polygynous breeders, which means one male will mate with multiple females.  They are also one of the longest living birds at nearly 100 years.

Biologically, Kakapo show what is called island syndrome development.  This is caused by having few predators and a lot of food for generations.  With birds, this means they develop a meatier and heavier torso while their wing muscles diminish.  They inevitably lose the ability to fly.  This made them easier to hunt by the Maori who used them for meat and feathers.  The Kakapo also appears in many of their legends and lore.

Some Kakapo facts:

  • They freeze when startled because they evolved to blend into their backgrounds to avoid eagles.  This doesn’t work with ground predators that use their sense of smell to hunt.
  • They have a keen sense of smell due to their nocturnal lifestyle.
  • Kakapo have a musty-sweet smell, which is very distinct.
  • They are very friendly and have little fear of humans.

Now for the cute pictures and videos:

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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16 Responses to The World’s Heaviest Parrot: The Kakapo

  1. Do they have some ancestral memory of flying, or ever look up at the birds i the sky I wonder? New Zealand must have been an amazing place before any humans arrived, with exotic giant birds.


  2. noelleg44 says:

    They look very regal, Charles. I do hope those predator-free islands help them proliferate. I’d love to see one face-to-face!


  3. Poor buggers. Those island adaptations aren’t good for a modern world.


  4. Fascinating Charles. Thanks you for sharing.


  5. V.M.Sang says:

    I do know about the kakapo, but not that they are so long-lived. That lifespan is amazing for a bird.
    I hope the reintroductions are successful.


  6. Super post, Charles. These huge birds are amazing.


  7. Pingback: *Press This* The World’s Heaviest Parrot: The Kakapo #274 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

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