name = Kākā
status = EN | status_system = IUCN3.1
trend = down

image_caption = A pair of Kākā at play
image_width = 260px
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Psittaciformes
familia = Psittacidae
genus = "Nestor"
species = "N. meridionalis"
binomial = "Nestor meridionalis"
binomial_authority = (Gmelin, 1788)

The Kākā, "Nestor meridionalis", is a parrot endemic to the forests of New Zealand.

Taxonomy and naming

The Kākā was described by German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1788. There are two subspecies, the North Island Kākā, "Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis", and the South Island Kākā, "N. m. meridionalis". The name Kākā is a Māori language word meaning "parrot".


The genus "Nestor" contains three species: The Kākā ("Nestor meridionalis"), the Kea ("N. notabilis"), and the extinct Norfolk Island Kākā ("N. productus"). All three are thought to stem from a 'proto-Kākā', dwelling in the forests of New Zealand 15 million years ago. [Fleming, C.A. (1975) The geological history of New Zealand and its biota. In G. Kuschel (Ed.): "Biogeography and ecology in New Zealand". The Hague: Dr. W. Junk] The closest relative is most likely the Kākāpō ("Strigops habroptilus").Juniper, T., Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: A guide to parrots of the world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (ISBN 0-300-07453-0)]

A 2005 sex chromosome spindlin DNA sequence study suggests that the "Nestor" species, and the Kākāpō in its own genus, comprise an ancient group that split off from all other Psittacidae before their radiation, [de Kloet, R.S.; de Kloet, S.R. (2005). The evolution of the spindlin gene in birds: sequence analysis of an intron of the spindlin W and Z gene reveals four major divisions of the Psittaciformes. "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution" 36: 706–721.] but fossil evidence seems to contradict thisFact|date=February 2007 ; given the violent geological history of New Zealand (see, for example, Taupo Volcanic Zone), other explanations such as episodes of genetic drift seem better supported by evidence.


The Kākā is a medium sized parrot, around 45 cm (18 in) in length and weighing about 550 g, and is closely related to the Kea, but has darker plumage and is more arboreal. The forehead and crown are a greyish-white in colour and greyish brown nape. The neck and abdomen are more reddish, while the wings are more brownish. Both sub-species have a strongly patterned brown/green/grey plumage with orange and scarlet flashes under the wings; color variants which show red to yellow coloration especially on the breast are sometimes found.

The calls include a harsh "ka-aa" and a whistling "u-wiia". [Falla RA, Sibson RB & Turbot EG (1966) "A Field guide to the birds of New Zealand". Collins, London (ISBN 0-00-212022-4)]

Distribution and habitat

The Kākā lives in lowland and mid-altitude native forest. Its strongholds are currently the offshore reserves of Kapiti Island, Codfish Island and Hauturu/Little Barrier Island.



The Kākā feeds on fruits, berries, seeds, flowers, buds, nectar and invertebrates. It uses its strong beak to shred the cones of the kauri tree to obtain the seeds. [cite web |title=Agathis australis, Kauri |work=Bushmans Friend |url=http://www.bushmansfriend.co.nz/content.asp?PageID=17761&orgfn=content|accessdate=2007-08-27 ] It has a brush tongue with which it feeds on nectar, and it uses its strong beak to dig out the grubs of the longhorn beetle.


Kākā make their nests in hollow trees, laying clutches of 2 to 4 eggs in late winter. Both parents assist in feeding the chicks.

Conservation status

The Kākā is considered vulnerable (CITES II). It has greatly declined, in part from habitat loss, in part because of introduced wasps, possums and bees, which compete with the Kākā for honeydew, which is excreted by scale insects. Research has shown that this honeydew is very important for breeding birds, especially those breeding in southern beech forests. The difficult nature of controlling the wasps makes the Kākā's future very uncertain. A closely related species, "Nestor productus", the Norfolk Island Kaka, became extinct in 1851.


* Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is endangered.

External links

* [http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1412&m=0 BirdLife Species Factsheet.]
* [http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/podcover.aspx?id=32847 Kaka] (New Zealand Department of Conservation)

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