Monday, June 20, 2011

The Red Crowned Parakeet

The Red Crowned Parakeet is a native New Zealand bird, that was once spread right across New Zealand, but is now extinct on the mainland.

I was lucky enough to be able to get a few good images of them in a wildlife and art park in the Marlborough Sounds last year, at Lochimara Lodge.  They are known by the Maori name - Kakariki.

They feed on seeds, berries, fruit, nuts and other parts of plants. They were extremely abundant in the 1880s, and they were known to rapidly increase in numbers at times (to irrupt). They are now only found on off shore islands such as Stewart Island, Tiritiri Matangi, and Somes. They are now categorised as vulnerable as the remaining populations are fragmented.

Their extinction on the mainland was due to their vulnerability to introduced species, particularly stoats, rats, possums, and habitat destruction following human settlement.

Kaka in Maori means Parrot, and Riki means small.  The word is also used to mean strong green colour - literally "parrot-green" - due to the birds' vivid plumage. The patches of red on the birds' rumps are, according to legend, the blood of the demigod Tāwhaki (White 1887). The Kakariki are basically bright green in colour but as with most green coloured birds, some very beautiful colour varieties are produced. The red-crowned Kakariki is distinguished by a bright crimson forehead, crown and a streak through the eye with violet-blue on the wings while the yellow-crowned has a golden yellow crown. Sometimes specimens have been found where the green gives way to a bright canary yellow while the bright red and violet remain. There have been other specimens taken which are bright red or predominately blue.

They are also bred in captivity and they make good pets, however a licence from the New Zealand Department of Conservation is now required for this.

Red-crowned parakeets favour holes in branches and trunks of trees, particularly decaying trees, for nesting. They also use crevices in cliffs or among rocks, burrows in the ground or densely matted vegetation.

During incubation, the cock calls the hen off the nest and feeds her by regurgitation. Both sexes feed the chicks but the cock usually transfers the food to the hen which then passes it along to the chicks. The red-crowned fledglings are fed on the ground for a period before they can fly which makes them especially vulnerable to predators

Kakariki are usually solitary or found in pairs, although in autumn and winter they may form small flocks. In flight they make a loud rapid chatter and may also chatter and babble when feeding.

There can be no doubt, that the destruction of the bush, especially the felling of the broad leafed trees, the Kakariki’s favourite haunts, the attacks of mustelids and rats which can get into its nesting holes, the increase of bees in hollow trees, shooting by farmers, trapping by fruit growers, are all reasons for the near demise of this lovely bird.

I hope that one day they'll be back in numbers on our mainland.

No comments: