Meet the Kākāpō


Strigops habroptilus

Animal Stats

PopulationOnly 211 left worldwide
Weightfrom 0.95 kg to 4 kg
Sizefrom 58 cm to 64 cm
Threat StatusCritically Endangered

Where It Lives

Fascinating Facts

The parrot that can’t fly

The kākāpō is the world’s only flightless parrot.

Its mating call is a long, deep BOOM that mates can hear up to five kilometres away.

A closer look

The kākāpō's story

The cuddly kākāpō has lived in New Zealand for thousands of years. It has an owl-like face (even though it is actually a parrot) and mossy-green feathers that help to camouflage it in its native forests. It uses its muscular legs to hike long distances, its strong beak to climb trees and its stubby little wings to flap as far as 15 metres from the branches of trees to the ground. Unlike other parrots, the kākāpō can’t fly – it just never needed to because it has never had any natural ground predators. It is a solitary, herbivorous animal, which means it lives on its own and only eats plants. The kākāpō is also a nocturnal bird, foraging for food at night and sleeping in the ground or tree-top roosts during the day. Kākāpōs build their nests out of rocks and roots in hollow trees or caves. 

The kākāpō is also the world's only ‘lekking’ parrot. This means males group together for three months a year to show off and attract females to breed, making booming calls that can be heard up to five kilometres away! Yet to breed, kākāpōs need a lot of available food so they only mate when the rimu and pink pine trees produce plenty of fruit – something that only tends to happen every two to five years. When kākāpōs do breed, the females lay between one and four eggs, which hatch after about 30 days. They then raise their young alone, keeping the chicks with them for some time.

Originally, the kākāpō could be found all over New Zealand’s North and South Islands, as well as on Stewart Island. When the first humans arrived in New Zealand roughly 800 years ago, followed by Europeans 500 years later, they brought with them introduced species, such as dogs, cats, stoats and rats. They also began clearing the forests for farming. This combination of unfamiliar ground predators and habitat loss put the kākāpō at immediate risk. The kākāpō has sadly been wiped out on mainland New Zealand. Since then, the remaining small population has been troubled by disease, inbreeding and infertility, meaning just 211 kākāpōs exist today.


What’s being done?

Critically endangered, the kākāpō survives only thanks to the dedicated efforts of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation and their Kakapo Recovery Programme, which protects, manages, and increases the species’ tiny population. Three islands have been cleared of predators and are now home to breeding groups: Little Barrier Island (Te Hauturu-o-Toi); Anchor Island; and Codfish Island (Whenua Hou).

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