Endangered parrot has record breeding season
The world’s fattest parrot, the critically endangered kakapo, has enjoyed a record-breaking breeding season, New Zealand scientists said on Thursday, with climate change possibly aiding the unique mating spree.
Less than 50 years after the flightless nocturnal bird was thought to have been extinct, at least 75 chicks are expected to survive this year, Andrew Digby, a science adviser to New Zealand’s kakapo recovery operation, said.
Digby oversees a breeding programme so precisely monitored that scientists can state the last of 249 eggs laid will hatch on Friday.
It will significantly boost the population, which has grown to 147 adults since a small number of the plump green, yellow and black birds were discovered in 1970.
Digby described the kakapo as an unusual parrot as the females control the breeding process and only mate every two to four years when the native rimu trees are full of fruit.
“We don’t quite know what the trigger is but one of the things we are looking at is that the rimu berry is really high in vitamin D, a super food basically, which is associated with fertility and health,” he said.
The rimu trees have produced a bumper crop this year, with Digby saying one theory was that climate change and temperature fluctuations could be behind the berry bonanza.
The surviving kakapo – whose name means “night parrot” in Maori – are kept on four predator-free islands off the New Zealand coast.
At the start of the breeding season, the males put themselves on display while the females choose a partner.
They mate and then end the relationship, shutting the male out of the rest of the process.
Digby said the 75 chicks expected to make it to adulthood represented more than double the success rate from the last season three years ago. –