Final kakapo egg of the year hatches

  • Maggie Barry

The first stage of a record breeding season for the kakapo has come to a close, with the last egg of the year hatched this morning, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

“The future of New Zealand’s own giant flightless parrot is looking much brighter,” Ms Barry says.

“Zephyr 2, hatched on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island shortly before 7am today, is the 46th chick this year – which makes this the most successful breeding season in the 25-year history of DOC’s Kakapo Recovery Programme.”

The kakapo, found nowhere else on Earth, is a world-famous native species which has become a standard bearer for New Zealand conservation. With only 123 adult birds remaining, their protection is a key priority for DOC.

“New Zealand owes the rangers and volunteers who have worked tirelessly through the season to date a vote of thanks. They are giving this special bird species the best possible chance of survival.”

Currently, 38 of the chicks are alive and well, although the coming weeks will be crucial as young kakapo are extremely vulnerable and some may not survive into adulthood.

They will be checked and weighed regularly until they fledge at around 10 weeks old. If they are not thriving in the wild, they will be brought in for hand-rearing.

“It will be six months until the chicks are added to the head-count of the total kakapo population,” Ms Barry says.

“The flash-flood on Anchor Island last month which killed three chicks underlines just how precarious their lives can be – but we know that the Recovery Programme team is doing everything it can to ensure as many reach adulthood as possible.”

This year is the first time breeding has occurred on all three kakapo islands at the same time – Codfish and Anchor Islands in Southland and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

There were also a significant number of first time breeders, both male and female, and the first successful breeding on Anchor Island in the decade that birds have been present there.

Kakapo are notoriously picky breeders, only reproducing every 2-4 years, depending on the availability of fruit from trees such as rimu and beech, their primary food source.