Kakapo (Strigops habroptila)


[order] PSITTACIFORMES | [family] Strigopidae | [latin] Strigops habroptila | [authority] Gray, 1845 | [UK] Kakapo | [FR] Kakapo | [DE] Kakapo | [ES] Kakapo | [NL] Kakapo | [copyright picture] Birdlife


Monotypic species


The Kakapo, Strigops habroptila,[2] also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand. It is the only species in its genus. The Kakapo is critically endangered; as of June 2011, only 131[5] living individuals are known. 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. Because of Polynesian and European colonisation and the introduction of predators such as cats, rats, ferrets, and stoats, the Kakapo was almost wiped out

Physical charateristics

Flightless, nocturnal, lek-breeding, green parrot. Moss-green upperparts. Greenish-yellow underparts. Brown-and-yellow mottling of feathers. Owl-like facial disk. Male has broader head, larger bill. Weighs up to 4 kg. Female c.65% male weight

Listen to the sound of Kakapo


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 64 cm size max.: 66 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 33 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 75 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 4  


Australasia : New Zealand. Strigops habroptila formerly occurred throughout most of the North, South and Stewart Islands, New Zealand. Although it disappeared from most of its original range in the wake of human colonisation, the species remained abundant in Fiordland and some other higher-rainfall and more sparsely inhabited parts of South Island until the early twentieth century1. By 1976, however, the known population had been reduced to 18 birds, all males, all in Fiordland. In 1977, a rapidly declining population of c.150 birds was discovered on Stewart Island.


This large, flightless, nocturnal parrot feeds on leaves, stems, roots, fruit, nectar and seeds and prior to human colonisation it formerly inhabited a range of vegetation types throughout most of the North, South and Stewart Islands. It breeds once every two to five years, coinciding with periodic superabundant seeding or fruiting periods of key podocarp plant species: on Codfish, Stewart and Pearl Islands nesting has only occurred when rimu Dacrydium cupressinum or pink pine Halocarpus biformis fruit has been abundant


Kakapo don’t breed every year – that depends on whether there’s enough rimu fruit around for them to eat. In the breeding season, the male kakapo can inflate like a balloon and emit a low ‘sonic’ boom which, in mountainous terrain, can be heard up to five kilometres away. Breeding activity usually starts in about December, when male kakapo take to prominent ridges, rocks or hilltops with low-growing vegetation and begin a courtship competition for female attention. This is known as ‘lek’ breeding, and is not known from any other parrot species in the world – or from any other New Zealand bird. From its prominent bowl site, each bird inflates a thoracic air sac and emits a deep resonant non-directional ‘boom’ from its swollen body, announcing to any females in the area that he is ready to mate After 20-30 booms they then make a high-pitched metallic call, or ‘ching’. This pinpoints the male?s position, to direct the females to him. The booming and chinging serenade will last for eight hours without break, every night for 2-3 months in the breeding seasons when nesting occurs. The males compete against each other, and can release thousands of ‘booms’ a night.
Each bird also forms a network of tracks radiating from a bowl-like depression in the earth, from which it is based. This is known as a ‘track and bowl’ system, which is also unique among parrot species of the world. The female kakapo lays between one and four eggs, which hatch after about 30 days. As a solo parent, the female has to leave the nest at night in search of food, leaving the eggs or chicks alone. The chicks will typically fledge, or leave the nest, after about ten weeks. However, the mother may keep feeding the chicks for up to six months.

Feeding habits

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, pollens and even the sapwood of trees. A study in 1984 identified 25 plant species as Kakapo food.[3] 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.

Video Kakapo


copyright: BBC 2


This species only survives in a tiny population on four offshore islands and therefore qualifies as Critically Endangered. With the instigation of intensive management in 1995, numbers are now increasing, but the population trend over the last three generations has still been negative.
On Stewart Island, over 50% of monitored adults were killed each year by cats. Abnormally low egg fertility and exceedingly low natural reproductive and recruitment rates are major concerns. In 2004, three juveniles died of septicaemia caused by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae (erysipelas), a disease which had not previously been reported in the species
Kakapo status Critically Endangered



Distribution map

Kakapo distribution range map

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