Last Updated on February 16, 2023 by Ali Shahid
A flightless, nocturnal parrot that’s also the heaviest bird in the world! Yes, we are talking about Kakapo. We all know that each parrot species has its interesting and unique facts. And the Kakapo is no different from any other parrot. So, I’m excited to reveal some Kakapo facts in this article.
A kakapo, or owl parrot, is a large, terrestrial parrot that is nocturnal and flightless. It is an endemic species of New Zealand. The Latin name of this species means something along the lines of owl-face soft feathers.
The bird has very soft feathers and a distinctive facial disc containing fine feathers, similar to those of an owl. New Zealand’s famous flightless parrot, the Kakapo, may not have caught your attention because it is a very rare bird.
Thus, they are little known outside of New Zealand. The chances of seeing one would be extremely rare since there are so few alive. Let us take you on a journey as we explore these fun, interesting, and mind-blowing facts about Kakapo.
19 Kakapo Facts
1.Sirocco Kakapo a conservation Superstar
The Sirocco parrot is a charismatic Kakapo and a popular national treasure as well as a media icon. It is also known as the kakapo conservation superstar. Furthermore, he serves as the official spokesperson for the conservation of birds in New Zealand.
We learned from Sirocco that the kakapo is capable of swimming. During a visit to Maud Island, he observed a family of rangers diving into the water. After joining in, he rowed back to shore, showing no signs of fear or fright.
The Sirocco once attempted to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine, while Stephen Fry watched and laughed. There’s even a video on YouTube.
There are 249 Kakapo alive in the world. Interestingly, each Kakapo has its name, which is unheard of in any animal species.
2. Unique Breeding Behavior
Kakapos are unique parrots. Males use a system known as ‘Lek mating’ in which they select a prominent location and compete with one another to attract females.
In general, kakapos do not reproduce every year. Breeding is believed to be associated with the Rumi tree’s fruiting cycle, occurring every two to four years.
A male competes by producing low-frequency ‘booms’ to signal his presence to females. This boom can travel as far as three miles!
The males begin to emit a high-pitched ‘ching’ after about 20-30 booms. A sequence of these calls can last up to eight hours a night during mating season, which lasts between two and four months.
3. Males are not active parents or partners
The male and female do not form a pair bond; they only meet to mate. When a female has copulated, it returns to its territory to lay eggs and raise its young.
The number of eggs laid will vary between one and two. Females guard them for 30 days before they hatch, leaving them only at night to search for food.
During the first 3 months, chicks are nursed by their mothers, and they will remain with their mothers for an additional few months.
4. The Only ‘owl parrot’
At first glance, the Kakapo appears to be more similar to an owl than a parrot. Nevertheless, it is an entire parrot, except for its incapacity to fly. Kakapos have prominent facial discs similar to owls.
Furthermore, the brown, bristle-like feathers surrounding its eyes, ears, and beak resemble those of an owl. Therefore, the Kakapo has been appropriately referred to as an “owl parrot” by early European settlers.
Intriguingly, the Kakapo shares some habits with the owl. Because they are both night birds, they are more active and awake at night. Consequently, they are nocturnal rather than diurnal, which means they are active during the day.
5. Kakapos can’t fly
Kakapos are the only parrot species in the world that cannot fly. Instead of flapping their wings, they use them to balance and support themselves.
Since their feathers are not required to be strong and stiff to support flight, they are much softer than those of other birds. In addition, they lack the keel on their sternum (breastbone), which allows other birds to fly with the help of their flight muscles.
6. Excellent Hiker and Climber
The Kakapo is an excellent hiker and climber due to its strong legs. They move about on the ground with a jogging gait. They are also capable of climbing tall trees and parachuting to the forest floor using their wings. They can reach speeds of 5km/h.
7. Heaviest Parrot Specie
There is no parrot on earth heavier than the Kakapo. It is estimated that some specimens can reach four kilograms. This bird can also store a large amount of fat, unlike many other land birds. Before breeding season, they can fatten up to 1kg.
8. Sharp smell, and whiskers
It is these two characteristics that enable them to lead a nocturnal lifestyle. As they forage for food at night, they can distinguish between odors, something only one other species can do. They are believed to rely on their whiskers to guide them through the dark forest.
9. When Kakapos are startled, they freeze
One of their defensive strategies involves freezing and hoping to blend into the background when danger approaches.
With introduced mammalian predators that use smell to find prey, this strategy is not as effective as it was with eagles that use sight to hunt.
10. They are nocturnal animals
At night, kakapos become active only after they have roosted in trees or settled on the ground during the day.
11. They smell nice
In its nocturnal environment, the kakapo has an excellent sense of smell. There is also an odor that can be described as musty-sweet in nature.
Probably this helps kakapos find one another in the forest; however, it assists introduced mammalian predators in finding them as well.
12. Kakapos are sturdy birds
The kakapo can store a large amount of energy as fat, unlike other land birds. At around 24 inches tall, it weighs between four and nine pounds, making it the world’s heaviest parrot.
13. A Kakapo’s story is rooted in Mori mythology
Māori believed that birds could predict the future based on their observation of birds preserving berries in water to preserve them. A similar practice was carried out by native Maori.
In addition, it has also been considered a delicacy by the Māori for centuries. Occasionally, the kakapo was kept as pets and their feathers were used to make clothing. Since they are now protected, it is impossible to carry out any of those activities legally.
14. One of the longest-lived birds
They live a slow life and may age well. Some reports say they live 90-100 years, making them one of the world’s longest-living birds. Others say 50-60 years, which is still pretty good.
15. Messy Eaters
Kakapo is a herbivorous bird, as opposed to an owl. Their favorites are plants, fruits, seeds, pollen, flowers, and rhizomes. They like moss, fungi, bark, and sap, too.
Also, Kakapo leaves a mess after eating. However, it is not an unintentional habit. This is their way of making their presence known.
So, Kakapo ingests all nutrients from plants while disposing of indigestible plant fibers. Kakapo leaves this inedible debris as a way of announcing their dining habits.
16. Socialite with an extrovert personality
A kakapo is an engaging and playful bird. It is not uncommon for them to interact with humans. They thrive on it! According to research, Kakapo doesn’t mind humans.
It’s been reported that Kakapo is a curious animal. They have delightfully unique personalities that make them so appealing.
17. Their feather color makes them camouflage well
They possess moss-green feathers with yellowish tones. The feathers of these birds are also mottled or barred, displaying some black and brownish-gray feathers in addition to the green feathers. The coloration of kakapos’ feathers provides them with excellent camouflage.
18. Mothers’ diet and condition affect their offspring’s sex ratio
A fascinating fact about kakapo is that female and male offspring can be differentiated based on the condition and diet of the kakapo mother.
When kakapo mothers are well-fed and in good condition, they are more likely to produce male offspring because males weigh approximately 30% to 40% more than females.
However, when food is scarce and competition is fierce, they produce more females. It is similar to many mammals’ breeding systems.
19. Collection of feathers at the Otago Museum
A collection of feathers from Richard Henry, the last mainland Kakapo, is kept at the Otago Museum in Dunedin, along with some other remarkable specimens from this species.
He was named in honor of the pioneering conservationist Richard Henry who lived in New Zealand during the late 1800s. He worked tirelessly to prevent introduced predators from harming kakapo.
Clout, Mick N., Graeme P. Elliott, and Bruce C. Robertson. “Effects of supplementary feeding on the offspring sex ratio of kakapo: a dilemma for the conservation of a polygynous parrot.” Biological Conservation 107.1 (2002): 13-18.
Merton, Don V., Rodney B. Morris, and Ian AE Atkinson. “Lek behaviour in a parrot: the kakapo Strigops habroptilus of New Zealand.” Ibis 126.3 (1984): 277-283.
Powlesland, Ralph G., et al. “Breeding biology of the kakapo Strigops habroptilus on Stewart Island, New Zealand.” Ibis 134.4 (1992): 361-373.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.