I had planned to get out and take some autumn pictures today, but it's been raining on and off all day. So here's a little dissertation on one of my favourite birds, the gorgeous kakapo (kah-kah-po). Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide...) described it as
"a sort of big, fat, soft, fluffy, lugubrious bird."
There are 6 billion people on earth, but there are only 120 kakapo. Strigops habroptila is native to New Zealand, and is one of the rarest parrots in the world. It's flightless, it's nocturnal; it's the world's heaviest parrot.
It's possibly the longest living bird, and it has a subsonic mating boom that can travel several kilometres.
By 1995 there were only 50 known birds, surviving on several small island sanctuaries. Even today there are so few birds that each is named individually.Thanks to a campaign by the Department of Conservation and the work of dedicated people, the species has been brought back from the brink.
As you can see, they're herbivorous:
You can read about the recovery programme here.
Richard Henry was the ‘elder statesman’ of the kakapo population,
and a lynchpin to the future of the species.
He was discovered in Fiordland in 1975, living more than 3500 feet above sea level, and was managed on islands for the remainder of his life. He was thought to be around 80 years old when he died in December 2010. He had a crucial role to play in ensuring genetic diversity in the population. and his sons Sinbad and Gulliver have been important in fathering a number of birds who now make up the current
young adult population.
Douglas Adams again: the kakapo is "affectionate as a dog, playful as a kitten. It can inflate itself with air to become the size and shape of a football; it has a song like an unreleased collection of Pink Floyd studio out-takes; it smells like a musty clarinet case. The kakapo has had things its own way for so long, that it simply became -- eccentric."
I have never been lucky enough to see one of these fabulous
creatures, but I am determined to do so one day.