Scientists Say: Kakapo

This endangered parrot is a ground dweller that can climb trees


There are so few kakapos left that many of them have names. This is Sirroco. He lives in captivity and is New Zealand’s official spokesbird for conservation.

Department of Conservation - Kakapo Sirocco/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Kakapo (noun, “KAHK-ah-po”)

This is a species of parrot that lives in New Zealand. It is the world’s only flightless parrot. The birds are also the heaviest of all parrots. The males weigh up to four kilograms (8.8 pounds) and the females up to 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs). Like many parrots, kakapos are long-lived, with lifespans reaching more than 50 years old. During those long lives, the birds dwell on the ground, climbing into trees only to get fruit and seeds.

The kakapo is an important bird to New Zealand’s native Māori people. In the past, they ate it and used its feathers for clothing. But when Western people arrived in New Zealand, they brought cats, ferrets and other predators with them. They also cleared land for farms, which meant the kakapo had fewer places to live. The bird’s numbers have been dwindling for a long time. As of 2017, there were only 154 kakapos left. Those birds have been moved to three islands where no predators can get to them.

In a sentence

To find out more about the kakapo, scientists have studied ancient fossilized kakapo poop.

This is how a kakapo gets around. BBC/YouTube

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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