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Strigops habroptila

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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
Synonym(s):
Strigops habroptilus Turbott (1990)
Strigops habroptilus Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)
Strigops habroptilus Collar and Andrew (1988)
Strigops habroptilus Collar et al. (1994)
Strigops habroptilus BirdLife International (2000)
Strigops habroptilus BirdLife International (2004)
Taxonomic Notes: Gender agreement of species name follows David and Gosselin (2002b).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2be ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-11-01
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.
Justification:
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.

History:
2012 Critically Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Strigops habroptila 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, but, as of November 2005, birds are still present on four islands: Codfish, Chalky, Anchor and Maud (Powlesland et al. 2006). 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).

Countries:
Native:
New Zealand
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In early 2012 there were 126 individuals, including 78 breeding adults (R. J. Moorhouse in litt. 2012).
Population Trend: Increasing

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

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): On Stewart Island, over 50% of monitored adults were killed each year by cats (Clout and Merton 1998). 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 Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. 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). 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 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 2013. Strigops habroptila. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 23 November 2014.
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