Endangered New Zealand Kakapo population boosted by record number of chicks

Endangered New Zealand Kakapo population boosted by record number of chicks

A Kakapo parrot named "Hoki" is seen in this still image taken from undated social media
A Kakapo parrot named Hoki is seen in this still image taken from undated social media video obtained Apr 18, 2019, in an undisclosed location in New Zealand. (Image: Reuters/Department of Conservation New Zealand)

WELLINGTON: A record number of endangered flightless Kakapo birds have hatched during New Zealand's unusually long 2019 breeding season, dramatically boosting the numbers of the rare native parrot.

More than 70 chicks have been born, according to New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC). Though not all are expected to make it to adulthood, the current 147 adult population is expected to see a dramatic increase.

The birds breed only once every two to four years when native rimu trees produce fruit, and this year's season was expected to be a record length.

Kakapo parrot chick "Hinemoa-2-A" is fitted with a transmitter in this undated social med
Kakapo parrot chick Hinemoa-2-A is fitted with a transmitter in this undated social media photo obtained Apr 18, 2019, in an undisclosed location in New Zealand. (Image: Reuters/Department of Conservation New Zealand)

"It's been going on for a long time ... we had our first mating before Christmas, the first chick hatched on the Jan 30, the earliest a chick had ever hatched," Andrew Digby, a science advisor on DOC's Kākāpō Recovery Programme, told Radio New Zealand's Kakapo Files podcast this week.

Kakapo are the world's heaviest species of parrot, with females weighing around 1.4kg and males 2.2kg.

The birds are vulnerable to predators and were decimated by cats and stoats introduced by European settlers in the 19th century.

Kakapo parrot chicks are seen in this undated social media photo obtained April 18, 2019, in an und
Kakapo parrot chicks are seen in this undated social media photo obtained Apr 18, 2019, in an undisclosed location in New Zealand. (Image: Reuters/Department of Conservation New Zealand)

By the mid-1990s Kakapo were on the brink of extinction but government-funded breeding programmes have worked to increase bird numbers.

Digby told Radio New Zealand that the young chicks were still quite uncoordinated and conservation staff were training them to get used to exploring so they can eventually climb 30m trees on dedicated island sanctuaries.

Kakapo parrot chicks "Queenie-2-A" and "Ruth-3-A" are seen in a nest in this st
Kakapo parrot chicks Queenie-2-A and Ruth-3-A are seen in a nest in this still image taken from undated social media video obtained Apr 18, 2019, in an undisclosed location in New Zealand. (Image: Reuters/Department of Conservation New Zealand)

"Those sort of skills and the balance and learning how to cope with the New Zealand bush is quite a big skill," he said, adding even the chicks that were now two months old were uncoordinated.

"When they're at this stage ... they look pretty cute, they're like bumbling puppies at the moment."

Kakapo parrot chicks are seen in this still image taken from undated social media video obtained Ap
Kakapo parrot chicks are seen in this still image taken from undated social media video obtained Apr 18, 2019, in an undisclosed location in New Zealand. (Image: Reuters/Department of Conservation New Zealand)
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Source: Reuters/zl

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