Scientists Say: Kakapo | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Kakapo

This endangered parrot is a ground dweller that can climb trees
Jun 18, 2018 — 6:30 am EST
Kakapo Sirocco

There are so few kakapos left that many of them have names. This is Sirroco. He lives in captivity and is New Zealand’s official spokesbird for conservation.

Department of Conservation - Kakapo Sirocco/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Kakapo (noun, “KAHK-ah-po”)

This is a species of parrot that lives in New Zealand. It is the world’s only flightless parrot. The birds are also the heaviest of all parrots. The males weigh up to four kilograms (8.8 pounds) and the females up to 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs). Like many parrots, kakapos are long-lived, with lifespans reaching more than 50 years old. During those long lives, the birds dwell on the ground, climbing into trees only to get fruit and seeds.

The kakapo is an important bird to New Zealand’s native Māori people. In the past, they ate it and used its feathers for clothing. But when Western people arrived in New Zealand, they brought cats, ferrets and other predators with them. They also cleared land for farms, which meant the kakapo had fewer places to live. The bird's numbers have been dwindling for a long time. As of 2017, there were only 154 kakapos left. Those birds have been moved to three islands where no predators can get to them.

In a sentence

To find out more about the kakapo, scientists have studied ancient fossilized kakapo poop.

This is how a kakapo gets around.
BBC/YouTube

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Power Words

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birds     Warm-blooded animals with wings that first showed up during the time of the dinosaurs. Birds are jacketed in feathers and produce young from the eggs they deposit in some sort of nest. Most birds fly, but throughout history there have been the occasional species that don’t.

ferret     A mammal belonging to the family of animals that includes weasels, skunks, otters and badgers.

fruit     A seed-containing reproductive organ in a plant.

kakapo     A large, nocturnal and flightless parrot that lives in New Zealand.

New Zealand     An island nation in the southwest Pacific Ocean, roughly 1,500 kilometers (some 900 miles) east of Australia. Its “mainland” — consisting of a North and South Island — is quite volcanically active. In addition, the country includes many far smaller offshore islands.

predator     (adjective: predatory) A creature that preys on other animals for most or all of its food.

species     A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

Western     (n. the West)  An adjective describing nations in Western Europe and North America (from Mexico northward). These nations tend to be fairly industrialized and to share generally similar lifestyles; levels of economic development (incomes); and attitudes toward work, education, social issues and government.