Strigops habroptila 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Psittaciformes Strigopidae

Scientific Name: Strigops habroptila
Species Authority: Gray, 1845
Common Name(s):
English Kakapo, Owl Parrot
Spanish Cacapo
Strigops habroptilus Gray, 1845 [orth. error in BirdLife International (2004)]
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Taxonomic Notes: Gender agreement of species name follows David and Gosselin (2002b).

Identification information: 58-64 cm. Flightless, nocturnal, lek-breeding, green parrot. Moss-green upperparts. Greenish-yellow underparts. Brown-and-yellow mottling of feathers. Owl-like facial disk. Male has broader head, larger bill. Weighs up to 4 kg. Female c.65% male weight. Voice Males 'boom' repetitively at night to attract females, often audible for up to 5 km, for three to five months in some years.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2be ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Jansen, P., Merton, D. & Moorhouse, R.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., McClellan, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Temple, H., Ashpole, J
This species only survives as a tiny population on four offshore islands. With the instigation of intensive management in 1995, numbers are now increasing, but the population trend over the last three generations has still been extremely rapid; it therefore qualifies as Critically Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2013 Critically Endangered (CR)
2012 Critically Endangered (CR)
2010 Critically Endangered (CR)
2009 Critically Endangered (CR)
2008 Critically Endangered (CR)
2006 Critically Endangered (CR)
2004 Critically Endangered (CR)
2000 Critically Endangered (CR)
1996 Extinct in the Wild (EW)
1994 Extinct in the Wild (EW)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species formerly occurred throughout most of the North, South and Stewart Islands, New Zealand. Although it disappeared from most of its original range in the wake of human colonisation, the species remained abundant in Fiordland and some other higher-rainfall and more sparsely inhabited parts of South Island until the early twentieth century (Clout and Merton 1998). By 1976, however, the known population had been reduced to 18 birds, all males, all in Fiordland. In 1977, a rapidly declining population of c. 150 birds was discovered on Stewart Island. Between 1980 and 1992, 61 remaining Stewart Island birds were transferred to offshore islands (Merton 1998, Merton and Clout 1998, Higgins 1999, Merton et al. 1999), and are presently located on Codfish and Anchor Islands (R. J. Moorhouse in litt. 2007). The last accepted North Island record was in 1927, the last South Island record of three males in Fiordland in 1987, and the last Stewart Island record of a female found and transferred to Codfish Island in 1997 (Powlesland et al. 2006). In 2009, a male which was one of four transferred from Stewart to Codfish in 1987 was refound after having been missing for 21 years (Anon. 2009). It is likely to be extinct in its natural range. In 2005, birds were present on four islands: Codfish, Chalky, Anchor and Maud (Powlesland et al. 2006). However since then, birds have been moved between islands and the majority of the population are now found on Codfish Island and Anchor Island (Anon. 2015). 

In 1999, 26 females and 36 males survived (Merton and Clout 1999), comprising 50 individuals of breeding age, six subadults and six juveniles. The population stabilised, and has begun to slowly increase (Higgins 1999, Merton et al. 1999, P. Jansen in litt. 1999) following the implementation of intensive management (Higgins 1999, Merton and Clout 1999, Merton et al. 1999). By 2005, the kakapo population stood at 86 (D. Merton in litt. 2005), of which 52 were breeding adults (21 females and 31 males) and 34 were juveniles (P. Jansen in litt. 2004, D. Merton in litt. 2005); a productive breeding year in 2009 saw the total population increase to 124 birds (Merton 2009), and there were known to be 126 birds in early 2012, including 78 breeding adults (R. J. Moorhouse in litt. 2012). In 2014 there were 110 adults of breeding age and 16 juveniles (<5 years old) (Kakapo Recovery 2014).

Countries occurrence:
New Zealand
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 26
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 2
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 300
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In 2014 there were 126 individuals, including 110 breeding adults (Kakapo Recovery 2014).

Trend Justification:  The species was described as still abundant in Fiordland and some other parts of South Island in the early twentieth century. The current population comprises of at least 78 breeding adults, and 126 birds in total (R. J. Moorhouse in litt. 2012), so although the population is now starting to slowly increase, it has declined by >80% in the last 100 years (<3 generations) (P. Jansen in litt. 2004, D. Merton in litt. 2005, Merton 2009).

Current Population Trend: Increasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 110 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 1 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This large, flightless, nocturnal parrot feeds on leaves, stems, roots, fruit, nectar and seeds, and, prior to human colonisation, it formerly inhabited a range of vegetation types throughout most of the North, South and Stewart Islands. It breeds once every two to five years, coinciding with periodic superabundant seeding or fruiting periods of key podocarp plant species: on Codfish, Stewart and Pearl Islands nesting has only occurred when rimu Dacrydium cupressinum or pink pine Halocarpus biformis fruit has been abundant (Harper et al. 2006). Males cluster in traditional lekking sites and advertise their presence by calling each night for about three months, with mating occurring mainly between January and early March (Powlesland et al. 2006). One to four eggs are laid and all parental care is performed by the female, with eggs and chicks being left unattended for several hours at night. Female Kakapo take 6-11 years to reach breeding age, and may live at least 90 years (P. Jansen in litt. 2004). One productive male is at least 30 years old, and probably much older. Adult survivorship is now more than 99% per year (Lloyd and Powlesland 1994, Cresswell 1996, Clout and Merton 1998, Merton and Clout 1998, 1999, Higgins 1999, Merton et al. 1999).

Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 27
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): On Stewart Island, over 50% of monitored adults were killed each year by cats (Clout and Merton 1998). Introduced Stoat Mustela erminea and Black Rat Rattus rattus contributed to its decline and Polynesian Rats Rattus exulans threaten nesting birds (Collar and Sharpe 2014). Abnormally low egg fertility and exceedingly low natural reproductive and recruitment rates are major concerns. In 2004, three juveniles died of septicaemia caused by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae (erysipelas), a disease which had not previously been reported in the species (P. Jansen in litt. 2004)

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. Supplementary feeding has increased the success of breeding attempts, and may be able to be used to trigger breeding: supplementary foods with low macronutrient:calcium ratios may be most effective in supporting increased reproduction (Higgins 1999, Merton et al. 1999, Raubenheimer and Simpson 2006, Anon. 2008). All individuals are radio-tagged, and tracked throughout the year. Each nest is monitored continuously using infra-red video cameras, and heat pads are placed over eggs and nestlings while females forage. In 1998, the Polynesian Rat Rattus exulans (a predator of eggs and nestlings) was eradicated from Codfish (Merton et al. 1999). Extensive research is on-going (Merton 1997, P. Jansen in litt. 1999). Methods of hand-rearing chicks are being refined. Reducing supplementary feeding levels has been shown to increase the percentage of female chicks produced and may redress the skewed gender balance (Clout et al. 2002, Robertson et al. 2006). Genetic diversity of the remaining population is managed to improve hatching rates (Merton 2006).

Translocations have been carried out to take advantage of locally abundant food supplies and increase the frequency of breeding attempts (Merton 2006). Trials of artificial insemination methods have taken place (Anon. 2008b), and by early 2012 three chicks had been produced using this technique (R. J. Moorhouse in litt. 2012). In 2008, seven chicks hatched on Codfish Island were transferred to specialised facilities to be hand-raised, as rimu fruit failed to ripen (Hirschfeld 2008). During the 2014 breeding season, six Kakapo chicks successfully hatched, three were hand-reared and the other three were reared in the wild, they all fledged on Codfish Island (Kakapo Recovery 2014). A search for any remaining birds in Fiordland was completed in 2006, with no birds found and no evidence of their continued existence. A Kakapo Recovery Plan (the third since 1989), produced in partnership between the Department of Conservation, Forest & Bird and Rio Tinto Alcan (formerly Comalco), covers the period 2006-2015.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Continue research to identify key factors that limit breeding frequency and productivity, and address these urgently (Cresswell 1996). Maintain existing management practices that have facilitated a recent increase in the population, and increase the number of females to 60 by 2016. Restore sufficient habitat to cater for the population increase and develop captive breeding programmes (Collar and Butchart 2013). Maintain public awareness and support (Hirschfeld 2009).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Strigops habroptila. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22685245A68776435. . Downloaded on 30 November 2015.
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