Remember the flightless kakapo I wrote about in this previous post? There are also endemic flying cousins to the New Zealand kakapo – and true to the parrot family, they are noisy, colorful and quite entertaining.
KAKA – The members of this boisterous and social forest parrot species were once plentiful on the islands of New Zealand. Now the South Island kaka are listed as vulnerable, the North Island at risk and the kaka once found on Chatham Islands are now extinct. Since the kaka usually nest in hollow trees they have no escape route if attacked by human-introduced predators such as stoats, rat or possum which love to eat chicks and eggs. Since the female kaka have nesting duty and are therefore most vulnerable to predators, there is a disproportionate ratio of male to female kaka which also inhibits the propagation of the species.
KEA – This endangered bird is the world’s only alpine parrot and it is so amazingly intelligent that it is considered one of the word’s smartest. Some of their accomplishments per the New Zealand Department of Conservation include:
- A kea learned to turn on a water tap
- A kea locked a mountaineer inside a toilet
- A kea learned to use tools to set off stoat traps to get the bait eggs.
- A kea that was being attacked by magpies hid behind a tramper who fended them off.
The kea I encountered were gregarious, very funny and enjoyable to watch. They appeared to be as curious about us as we were of them:
The next two birds are smaller parakeets which are actually considered the small to medium species in the parrot family. They are also very intelligent and mischievous – at times I didn’t know who was stalking who – these birds followed and taunted me and even posed – when they felt like it.
KAKARIKI/RED-CROWNED PARAKEET – Once very abundant, the kakariki is now endangered due to habitat loss and introduced predators. They are very active birds and very inquisitive and very very fast on the wing so I was at the mercy of their whims in order to take a photo – and more or less this one fellow obliged:
This next two photos are among my favorites – they are a little more artsy than a straight portrait, but I love the explosion of colors from the kakariki’s feathers:
ANTIPODES – The Antipodes Parakeet’s natural habit is a very remote, bleak and otherwise inhospitable subantarctic island of the southern part of New Zealand. The Antipodes Island is so far south and so windswept that it cannot support the growth of trees, so the Antipodes Parakeet forages on the ground for food and also builds its nest on the ground.
Despite having a “grounded” lifestyle, this parakeet is a great flyer and quite speedy. In fact, the one I met definitely had the upper hand and it was clear he was enjoying himself zooming back and forth over my head, waiting for me to focus my camera and then zooming off again. He did finally deign to let me take a few pics.