Habitat Tours’ bird of the month: the kaka
New Zealand’s kaka (not to be confused with the kakapo) is our bird of the month this April. Not only is this endemic species quite rare, they are also an exquisite, fascinating bird as well.
How to spot a kaka in the wild
Firstly, you’ll need to be in the right place. You might find them in the north around Auckland and the Coromandel, in the central North Island, or almost anywhere on the eastern side of the South Island.
Once in one of these areas, head to a native forest, as these birds love to live and forage amongst our unique tree species.
When you do see this elusive bird, you’ll identify it thanks to its large, parrot-like appearance. They have olive-brown feathers with a pale grey crown, as well as an eye-catching red-orange hue on the underwing and a dark red belly. The only bird you might confuse it for is the kea, which is in the same family, but is more green than brown.
There are actually two sub-species of kaka. The larger, more vividly coloured bird lives in the South Island, while the slightly smaller one inhabits the North.
Another way to spot the kaka is to listen for its call – a distinct ‘ka-aa’ that they cry when flying overhead. Most of the time, you’ll be able to see one when they are out during the day, but they are known to stay up late for fine weather and full moons at night!
Why isn’t the kaka more common?
It’s likely that there are fewer than 10,000 kaka left in the world, even though they were once commonplace.
Like many New Zealand bird species, the biggest threat is that of pests. Namely, stoats and possums. Another threat that has contributed to the kaka’s downfall has been the deforestation of its natural habitats.
The Department of Conservation strives to recover the kaka population largely through efforts to control and understand pest populations, which has been shown to offer positive results for the kaka.
What makes the kaka our bird of the month?
You’ve simply got to love this boisterous bird. They even get their Maori name due to their entertaining rabble they produce when they get together in groups morning and night.
They’ll make you laugh as they use their feet for just about everything, from holding onto food to hanging off branches so they can reach berries and treats further away. The kaka have strong bills, so you might even see one as it rips open the tough cone of the kauri tree to get at the seeds inside.
Plus, due to their native forest habitat and love of berries and seeds, they play a big role in pollination throughout New Zealand.
Much like its cousin the kea, the kaka is a much-loved New Zealand bird that will hopefully see a resurgence in numbers as efforts are made to remove threats from native forests.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist