Home | Bird Research or Recent News | Saving the Kakapo or Owl Parrot (Strigops habroptila): an Odd Conservation Strategy for an Odd Bird

Saving the Kakapo or Owl Parrot (Strigops habroptila): an Odd Conservation Strategy for an Odd Bird


It appears that one of the world’s strangest and most endangered birds is benefiting by an equally unusual rescue plan.  New Zealand’s kakapo breaks all sorts of “parrot rules”…it is nocturnal, flightless, utilizes a lek mating system (many males display before females in one location), eats leaves and grass and feeds fruit to its young.  It is also the world’s heaviest parrot, and, with a population of only 90 individuals (up from 51 in 1995), the rarest.  With a mean age of 90 years, it is among the longest-lived of all birds.

Kakapo reproduction is tied closely with the flowering of the rimu tree, the fruit of which forms the basis of the chick’s diet.  The tree blooms only every 3rd year or so, and the kakapos do likewise.  Already decimated by introduced stoats (weasel relatives), rats and habitat loss, the kakapo population cannot rebound under this breeding strategy.

Scientists at Glasgow University have devised a food supplement that increases female egg production in non-fruiting years.  This formula is now fed to wild kakapos and has yielded promising results.  Amazingly, the dedicated researchers working with this bird know every individual (by name!).  They carry supplemented food to scores of feeding stations, and make certain that each bird consumes its share…surely one of the most intense conservation initiatives anywhere!


 You can read more about the remarkable Kakapo Recovery Plan at:


Image referenced from Wikipedia Commons

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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