Here’s a short video of “Lisa One,” born just last month and the the first kakapo chick to hatch in three years. As you may know, the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is the world’s only flightless parrot, a stocky, awkward, but lovable bird native to New Zealand. It has a lek breeding system in which males apparently make very loud “booming” calls from depressions in the ground.
You will either find this chick adorable or repugnant (I’m in the former class):
The kakapo’s ground-dwelling habits were nearly its death: the species came this close to extinction from introduced predators like cats and rats, and finally the government decided to save it by moving all the kakapos it could to three isolated islands. (It’s my dream to work on one of these for a month, feeding the birds and helping the species recover.) There are only 125 of these birds left, but they are coming back. Here’s a graph of the population size from Wikipedia (notice how infrequent the births are [red arrows]). Don’t ask me why the increase right before 2010 is larger than the number of births:
Here’s an adult male kakapo; I consider this clip, showing Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine in the “Last chance to see” series, the funniest animal video ever filmed. I know I’ve shown it before, but you can’t see this too often.
Fun kakapo facts:
- Though the Kakapo cannot fly, it is an excellent climber, ascending to the crowns of the tallest trees. It can also “parachute” – descending by leaping and spreading its wings. In this way it may travel a few metres (yards) at an angle of less than 45 degrees.
- Having lost the ability to fly, it has developed strong legs. Movement is often by way of a rapid “jog-like” gait by which it can move many kilometres. A female has been observed making two return trips each night during nesting from her nest to a food source up to 1 km (0.6 mi) away and the male may walk from its home range to a mating arena up to 5 km (3 mi) away during the mating season (October–January).
- To attract females, males make loud, low-frequency (below 100 Hz) booming calls from their bowls by inflating a thoracic sac.They start with low grunts, which increase in volume as the sac inflates. After a sequence of about 20 loud booms, the male Kakapo emits a high frequency, metallic “ching” sound. He stands for a short while before again lowering his head, inflating his chest and starting another sequence of booms. The booms can be heard at least one kilometre (0.6 mi) away on a still night; wind can carry the sound at least five kilometres (3 mi). Males boom for an average of eight hours a night; each male may produce thousands of booms in this time. This may continue every night for three or four months during which time the male may lose half his body weight. Each male moves around the bowls in his court so that the booms are sent out in different directions. These booms are also notorious for attracting predators, because of the long range at which they can be heard.