Other names:Bush parrot, kākā
Threat category:Threatened: Nationally Vulnerable, At Risk: Recovering?
Regions:Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson-Tasman, Marlborough, Westcoast, Canterbury, Southland
Distribution:Large forests of the North and South Islands
- Kaka are large, olive-brown parrots with crimson underparts.
- Kaka have a variety of vocalisations including liquid whistles and harsh grating calls.
- Two subspecies are recognised:
- North Island kaka Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis, classified as At Risk: Recovering, found in large forests of the North Island.
- South Island kaka Nestor meridionalis meridionalis, classified as Threatened: Nationally Vulnerable, found in large forests of the South Island.
- Kaka, kea and kakariki are omnivorous, taking berries, seeds, nectar, and invertebrates.
- Kaka often use their strong bill to tear into decaying wood for grubs. They are also known to extract seeds from pine cones.
- Kaka are cavity nesters and breed in tree holes or stumps.
- There may be fewer than 10,000 kaka surviving in New Zealand.
- Both subspecies of kaka have shown great capacity for recovery at sites where intensive predator control is undertaken. North Island kaka are now often seen in Wellington city since the establishment of Zealandia, a predator-fenced sanctuary in a suburban neighbourhood.
- The establishment of a breeding population in Wellington city has resulted in substantial damage to many mature trees, particularly exotic species, when kaka strip bark off the trees to feed on the sap. Research indicates that Lawson cypress, Japanese cedar and macrocarpa appear to be specifically targeted. No kaka damage was observed on any mature radiata pine.
Association with Plantations
- Kaka visit plantation forests where they feed on invertebrates, indigenous fruits and sometimes pollen cones and growing shoots of pines.
- Kaka are known to strip bark near the growing tip on mature Douglas fir.
- Competition for food resources from possums, introduced wasps and possibly rats. The eradication of possums from Kapiti Island resulted in a major increase of kaka numbers.
- Predation of eggs, young and adults by mustelids, cats, possums, and rats.
Management Options and Methods
- Undertake pest control if breeding populations are present in adjacent indigenous forest or remnants:
- Initially use 1080 for possum and rats with secondary benefit of killing of mustelids and cats. Residual trap catch (RTC) monitoring needs to be less than 5% in order for kaka to be able to breed successfully.
- Follow-up trapping or poisoning may be needed (refer NZ pigeon).
- Undertake mustelid and cat control using Fenn traps for mustelids and kill-traps for cats (refer to Kiwi section).
- Wasp control – in kaka nesting areas consider searching for and destroying nests of common and German wasps using carbaryl or another similar toxin.
- Injured or dead birds:
- Place injured birds in a cardboard box (keep shaded) and deliver to a local vet, SPCA or DOC.
- Call DOC if bird has a band or bird is dead.
- Database of sightings, nest locations, protection methods and breeding outcomes.
- Report findings to DOC.
Further Information and Support
- New Zealand Birds Online: kaka.
- Department of Conservation species accounts: kaka.
- Department of Conservation 2009: Effect of controlling introduced predators on kaka (Nestor meridionalis) in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project.
- Charles and Linklater 2014: Selection of trees for sap-foraging by a native New Zealand parrot, the kaka (Nestor meridionalis), in an urban landscape.
- Heather and Robertson 2000. The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Viking. 440 pp.
- Pest management: DOC, Regional Councils.