Kaka (Nestor meridionalis)

Spanish: Kaka
GenusNestor (1)
SizeSize: 45 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The kaka is a forest parrot, with a fairly dull colouration and a long, curved beak (2). It has a distinctive pale crown and crimson underwings, rump and collar (2). The North Island subspecies is mainly olive-brown in colour, with darker feather edges and a grey, pale crown. The South Island subspecies is brighter in colour, and the crown in almost white. The bills are longer in this subspecies, and more arched in males (4). This parrot species can also be recognised by its loud whistling to grating calls (4).

This species is endemic to New Zealand (2). The North Island subspecies survives in large forest tracts from Coromandel to Wairarapa, where it is moderately common. The South Island subspecies is generally found west of the Southern Alps, Fiordland, southwestern Southland, on Stewert Island and several other offshore islands (4).

Inhabits low to mid altitude forest (4).

This parrot has a diverse diet, feeding on fruit, seeds, nectar, sap, invertebrates and also honeydew in some areas. It nests in natural cavities in old or dying trees, and appears to depend on infrequently available food crops in order to breed (4). Females usually lay four eggs, and juveniles only reach independence after seven months (2).

This species is undergoing a continuous decline, and in the last 45 years (three generations) has suffered a 10% population loss. Reasons for this marked decline include extensive habitat losses, due to forest clearing, pressures from hunting, predators and introduced competitors (4).

The predators include stoats, (Mustela erminea), which kill adults, and brush-tailed possums (Trichosurus vulpecula), which rob nests and eat kaka eggs. Stoats actually kill more females than males, as they are easier prey while incubating eggs. This may account for the highly skewed sex ratio on the mainland. Food competition on this island is also thought to be a problem for the kaka despite it having a mixed diet. The brush-tailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), black rat (Rattus rattus) and introduced wasps (Vespula spp) all compete with the kaka for various food, from invertebrates to honeydew (4).

To tackle the threats facing the kaka, predator and pest control surveys are being carried out in several large areas and near nesting sites (2). Populations are also being monitored, with juveniles being radio tracked to identify their movements, habitat and food requirements, and survival rates (4). In 1996 - 1997 a small population of 14 juveniles were successfully introduced into a new area, Mt Bruce Reserve, North Island (4). It is hoped that these measures will, one day, reverse the current population trend, and allow the kaka to recover (4).

Find out more about the kaka:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Redlist 2006 (May, 2006)
  2. Birdlife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  3. CITES (February, 2004)
  4. BirdLife International (February, 2004)