Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The most distinctive feature of the kokako is its haunting song. The dawn chorus begins with each bird opening and closing its wings and fanning its tail, then arching the neck and uttering gentle mewing and buzzing sounds before launching into full song. The song resembles the sound of an organ with loud, clear and melodious notes (4). Males and females pair throughout the year and sometimes for several years (7). The male and female will answer each other's song for up to half an hour with impressive harmony. Birds in the surrounding area sing together from the top of tall trees on ridges producing an extraordinary chorus, which serves to defend their five to twenty hectare territories (4). The birds also communicate through calls, clicks, buzzes and screeches which are all socially specific. Kokako are poor fliers, but their powerful legs allow them to leap, run and jump through trees in search of fruits, leaves and insects (4). Breeding usually takes place between November and February but in years of abundant food supply it can last from October through to May (8), and pairs might raise up to three broods in one season (7). The female builds a large and untidy nest between branches fairly high in the trees (2 to 35 metres), beginning with a twig base, and weaving together moss, lichen, rotten wood and ferns, before lining the nest bowl with tree fern scales. The nest is built in dense foliage, with small contributions of material from the male, and is well concealed from aerial predators. In each clutch, the female lays two or three pinkish grey eggs with brown and purple spots, and these hatch after 18 days of incubation by the female alone. The male works to feed himself, his partner and the new hatchlings. The nestling begins life with pink wattles and fledges after 30 to 45 days (7). During the first year they must find an unoccupied area for their territory and their wattles will change from pink to blue or orange, depending on the subspecies (8).
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Description

This medium-sized wattlebird has blue-grey feathers with black legs and bill, and a black highway-man mask which is in striking contrast to the wattles under the throat. There were two subspecies of kokako; the North Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea wilsoni) has blue wattles on the throat, whereas the now-extinct South Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea cinerea) had orange wattles. The wings are short and rounded (4).
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Biology

The most distinctive feature of the kokako is its haunting song. The dawn chorus begins with each bird opening and closing its wings and fanning its tail, then arching the neck and uttering gentle mewing and buzzing sounds before launching into full song. The song resembles the sound of an organ with loud, clear and melodious notes (4). Males and females pair throughout the year and sometimes for several years (7). The male and female will answer each other's song for up to half an hour with impressive harmony. Birds in the surrounding area sing together from the top of tall trees on ridges producing an extraordinary chorus, which serves to defend their five to twenty hectare territories (4). The birds also communicate through calls, clicks, buzzes and screeches which are all socially specific. Kokako are poor fliers, but their powerful legs allow them to leap, run and jump through trees in search of fruits, leaves and insects (4). Breeding usually takes place between November and February but in years of abundant food supply it can last from October through to May (8), and pairs might raise up to three broods in one season (7). The female builds a large and untidy nest between branches fairly high in the trees (2 to 35 metres), beginning with a twig base, and weaving together moss, lichen, rotten wood and ferns, before lining the nest bowl with tree fern scales. The nest is built in dense foliage, with small contributions of material from the male, and is well concealed from aerial predators. In each clutch, the female lays two or three pinkish grey eggs with brown and purple spots, and these hatch after 18 days of incubation by the female alone. The male works to feed himself, his partner and the new hatchlings. The nestling begins life with pink wattles and fledges after 30 to 45 days (7). During the first year they must find an unoccupied area for their territory and their wattles will change from pink to blue or orange, depending on the subspecies (8).
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Description

This medium-sized wattlebird has blue-grey feathers with black legs and bill, and a black highway-man mask which is in striking contrast to the wattles under the throat. There were two subspecies of kokako; the North Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea wilsoni) has blue wattles on the throat, whereas the now-extinct South Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea cinerea) had orange wattles. The wings are short and rounded (4).
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Biology

The most distinctive feature of the kokako is its haunting song. The dawn chorus begins with each bird opening and closing its wings and fanning its tail, then arching the neck and uttering gentle mewing and buzzing sounds before launching into full song. The song resembles the sound of an organ with loud, clear and melodious notes (4). Males and females pair throughout the year and sometimes for several years (7). The male and female will answer each other's song for up to half an hour with impressive harmony. Birds in the surrounding area sing together from the top of tall trees on ridges producing an extraordinary chorus, which serves to defend their five to twenty hectare territories (4). The birds also communicate through calls, clicks, buzzes and screeches which are all socially specific. Kokako are poor fliers, but their powerful legs allow them to leap, run and jump through trees in search of fruits, leaves and insects (4). Breeding usually takes place between November and February but in years of abundant food supply it can last from October through to May (8), and pairs might raise up to three broods in one season (7). The female builds a large and untidy nest between branches fairly high in the trees (2 to 35 metres), beginning with a twig base, and weaving together moss, lichen, rotten wood and ferns, before lining the nest bowl with tree fern scales. The nest is built in dense foliage, with small contributions of material from the male, and is well concealed from aerial predators. In each clutch, the female lays two or three pinkish grey eggs with brown and purple spots, and these hatch after 18 days of incubation by the female alone. The male works to feed himself, his partner and the new hatchlings. The nestling begins life with pink wattles and fledges after 30 to 45 days (7). During the first year they must find an unoccupied area for their territory and their wattles will change from pink to blue or orange, depending on the subspecies (8).
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Description

This medium-sized wattlebird has blue-grey feathers with black legs and bill, and a black highway-man mask which is in striking contrast to the wattles under the throat. There were two subspecies of kokako; the North Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea wilsoni) has blue wattles on the throat, whereas the now-extinct South Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea cinerea) had orange wattles. The wings are short and rounded (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

This species is endemic to New Zealand. The last confirmed sightings of the South Island subspecies cinereus were in 1967 (Clout and Hay 1981); it is now considered extinct, with recent reports not deemed to be credible (Bain 2009). The North Island subspecies wilsoni was formerly common throughout the island's forests, but now only survives in the Hunua Ranges, Mataraua, Kaharoa, Rotoehu, Pureora and Mapara forests, and Te Urewera National Park (Rasch 1991, Moore and Innes 1996). In June 2008, 747 pairs were recorded, giving a total population estimate of 1,650 individuals (Anon. 2008). Populations are increasing in areas of intensive conservation work including the establishment of translocated populations at Secretary Island and Omaio/East Cape (J. Innes in litt. 2009), but continue to decline elsewhere, with those at most unmanaged sites now extinct. Observed rates of decline have been as high as 50% in three years in some areas (I. A. Flux in litt. 1999, Innes et al. 1999). Subpopulations are entirely isolated by fragmentation (I. A. Flux in litt. 1999). This species is entirely conservation-dependent, each population requiring on-going annual pest-management until at least 25 breeding pairs are present, followed by at least three years of management every 10 years to maintain population growth. Although the population is now increasing thanks to the intensive management conducted for the species, the number of locations where it is found continues to decline as unmanaged populations disappear, and over the past three generations the global population has certainly shown a very rapid decline.

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Geographic Range

Callaeas cinereus, commonly known as kōkakos, is endemic to New Zealand. Kōkakos were historically found in abundance through out the North Island, but are now reduced to 15 populations, concentrated in the mainland’s northern and central forests. Populations can also naturally be found on islands 50 km from the North Island mainland. The estimated total amount of adult kōkakos as of 2010 was 1,538 adults, 769 of which were breeding pairs. In an effort of conservation, translocation programs from 1990 to 1997 have taken individuals from several different populations on the North Island mainland to Kapiti Island and the southern portion of the North Island.

Biogeographic Regions: oceanic islands (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

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Range

As the last remaining subspecies of the wattlebird family to be found on the New Zealand mainland, the North Island kokako used to inhabit the whole of the North Island, but populations now occur in small and fragmented areas of the North Island and on four offshore islands. Translocations have taken place to create populations on Little Barrier, Kapiti, Tiritiri Matangi and Lady Alice Islands (4). The South Island kokako used to inhabit South and Stewart Islands, but is now deemed to be extinct (5).
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Range

As the last remaining subspecies of the wattlebird family to be found on the New Zealand mainland, the North Island kokako used to inhabit the whole of the North Island, but populations now occur in small and fragmented areas of the North Island and on four offshore islands. Translocations have taken place to create populations on Little Barrier, Kapiti, Tiritiri Matangi and Lady Alice Islands (4). The South Island kokako used to inhabit South and Stewart Islands, but is now deemed to be extinct (5).
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Range

As the last remaining subspecies of the wattlebird family to be found on the New Zealand mainland, the North Island kokako used to inhabit the whole of the North Island, but populations now occur in small and fragmented areas of the North Island and on four offshore islands. Translocations have taken place to create populations on Little Barrier, Kapiti, Tiritiri Matangi and Lady Alice Islands (4). The South Island kokako used to inhabit South and Stewart Islands, but is now deemed to be extinct (5).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Kōkakos are of medium size, measuring 38 to 50 cm in length, weighing on average 219 g. Feathers are blue-grey in color, the beak, legs, and face mask are black. The beak is round and short, and the legs are long and slender. Wings are short and round with a wing span averaging only 50.2 to 52.1 cm, contributing to its limited flight capability. Directly under the beak is a cobalt blue wattle; a soft mass of tissue. There is one extinct and one extant subspecies of C. cinereus. The South Island subspecies, C. c. cinera, was recently declared extinct by the New Zealand Department of Conservation in 2007. The last documented sighting of South Island kōkakos was in 1967. The North Island subspecies, C. c. wilsoni, is classified as endangered. The distinction between the North and South island kōkakos are wattle coloring. The wattle of South Island kōkakos was bright orange, while the wattle of adult North Island kōkakos is cobalt blue. Adult wattles vary in the brightness and hue depending on the age and condition of the individual bird.

Kōkako eggs have an oval shape, and are pink-grey in color with variations of brown and purple streaks and spots. Eggs are 33 to 43.75 mm in length, 22.65 to 28.35 mm in width, and weigh (±1g) 15 to 16g. Young kōkakos have dull brown-green coloring on the majority of their feathers except for their abdomens and under their tails, which are yellow-brown. A nestling’s wattle is pink when first hatched and becomes pale blue with age. There is little distinction between males and females, both possessing the same patterns and colors.

Range mass: 210 to 245 g.

Average mass: 219 g.

Range length: 38 to 50 cm.

Range wingspan: 50.2 to 52.1 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger; ornamentation

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species prefers lowland, tall podocarp/hardwood forests with a high diversity of plant species. It is rarely found in modified forests, including selectively logged forests (Heather and Robertson 1997). Its diet varies seasonally. It prefers fruit, but also eats leaves, invertebrates, buds, flowers and nectar (Powlesland 1987). Shrub hardwoods are a particularly important food source (Rasch 1991). It breeds mainly from October to March, usually laying three eggs (Heather and Robertson 1997, Bain 2008). In years of high food availability, pairs will raise several clutches. The average age of parents at Mapara is 6.3 years, but this may be an underestimate of the global average as the population is young owing to intensive management (I. A. Flux in litt. 1999).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Kōkakos are found on the Northern Island of New Zealand in areas with specific hardwoods, such as podocarps, and a variety of shrubs. Their nests are primarily found in wooded gullies and ridges built towards the top of trees, well covered by canopy. When foraging for food, kōkakos stay primarily in the canopy and the upper understory. Kōkakos are territorial, and therefore require far reaching forests to accommodate. Territories vary in size depending on the region that is occupied, but on average live in territories of 4 to 12 ha.

Range elevation: 2 to 38 m.

Average elevation: 13 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest

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These beautiful birds are found in middle to low layers of temperate forest with a high diversity of plant species and generally, very little human disturbance (1) (2) (3), although kokako can persist in some very modified habitat, such as on Tiritiri Matangi Island, if mammalian predators are completely absent (6).
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These beautiful birds are found in middle to low layers of temperate forest with a high diversity of plant species and generally, very little human disturbance (1) (2) (3), although kokako can persist in some very modified habitat, such as on Tiritiri Matangi Island, if mammalian predators are completely absent (6).
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These beautiful birds are found in middle to low layers of temperate forest with a high diversity of plant species and generally, very little human disturbance (1) (2) (3), although kokako can persist in some very modified habitat, such as on Tiritiri Matangi Island, if mammalian predators are completely absent (6).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

kōkakos' food habits vary from year-to-year, by season, and territory. In general they are omnivorous and feed on fruit, foliage, insects, flowers, and buds. In one study, three sample forest areas yielded more than 100 different food items eaten by kōkakos, reflecting the local ecology. The greatest portion of kōkakos' diets was composed of fruit followed by the leaves of dicotyledonous shrub and tree species within their territorial areas. This included, but was not limited to, the fruit and leaves of raukawa, fivefinger, tawa, and rearewa. A smaller contribution to kōkakos' diets includes sixpenny scale insects (Ctenochiton viridis), flowers, buds, and gymnosperm cones, respectfully, from greatest contribution to smallest.

The amount of time spent feeding varies, along with diet, from season to season. Less time is spent foraging during spring and summer months and is increased greatly from autumn to winter. The greatest amount of time spent feeding occurs during the winter months, even with the decrease in day length. The amount of sixpenny scale insects consumed is relatively low during much of the year, in exception to the spring months when these invertebrates encompass the majority of kōkakos' diets.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: leaves; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Fruit makes up the largest portion of kōkakos' diets. Small fruits of a variety of plant species are consumed whole, allowing for the opportunity for seed dispersal. However, due to decreasing population numbers, poor flight capabilities, and stationary territorial lifestyles, kōkakos do not likely have a large ecological effect on the dispersal of seeds. This is also true regarding browsing and the defoliation of plants. Sixpenny scale insects, an important food source for kōkakos during spring months, live on the undersides of leaves and the leaves are systematically picked off. A pair of kōkakos was observed detatching 60 leaves in a 20 minute period. It is believed that when kōkakos flourished throughout New Zealand, before European settlement, it may have had a larger ecological effect on seed dispersal, browsing, and defoliation.

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Predation

Though kōkakos may be relatively well hidden and protected from avian predators, introduced mammalian species have little to no difficulty seeking out and obliterating entire clutches. Kōkakos adapted alongside diurnal avian predators that rely mainly on sight to detect prey. Introduced mammalian predators, in contrast, are nocturnal and rely heavily on sight, auditory, and olfactory cues. Nests are not only untidy in structure, but reek of feces. A nest of juveniles can be detected by the human nose more than ten meters away. A combination of the smell, sound of hatchlings begging, and the nocturnal foraging habits of these unfamiliar predators, make kōkakos' nests easy targets. Adult male and female kōkakos, when attacked by a mammalian predator will respond by deserting the nest and hiding until the threat has lifted.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Kōkakos communicate to others of its species by an organ-like song. The native people of New Zealand, the Maori, call its haunting and unique song, “Te Koha Waiata”, translated as “the gift song”. Call phrasing is not sexually specific and can be observed in both pair-bonds and singular birds as a means of territorial defense, and is referred to as an antiphonic duet. An antiphonic duet is when one bird begins a phrase and after a pause the other ends it, alternating male and female contribution to the song. Kōkakos can distinguish between a single bird and a pair-bond by their ability to detect the spatial gap between the pair. Because territory is guarded year round, this duet behavior advertises that there are two protecting the territory to their surrounding neighbors, decreasing the likelihood of territory invasion and confrontation. A population of kōkakos will let their neighbors know where their territory is and if a pair-bond inhabits it by joining in a chorus, in which the surrounding population sings together at dawn. The defense of a territory or mate is not the only purpose for kōkakos' songs. One contributing factor to a female’s mate choice is the phrase type of the male’s song. There are 18 different phrases in a kōkako’s song, 86% of which are locally unique to each population. Given the choice, a female will pick a male from the same population in which she originated. Like most birds, kōkakos perceive their environments through visual, auditory, tactile and chemical stimuli.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets ; choruses

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Kōkakos are a long lived species. The North Island Kōkako Recovery Plan, conducted in 1999 to 2006, states that the oldest documented kōkako in the wild was 11 years old. The expected lifespan of a juvenile, who has fledged from the nest and is recruiting for a new territory, is estimated at 10.6 years old. It is believed that a kōkako can live 20 years or more. The main focus of breeding in captivity is to be able to release kōkakos into the wild to replace the dwindling, or nonexistent, populations that once flourished. Therefore, there are no known statistics for the oldest kōkako in captivity.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
11 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10.6 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
20 years.

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Reproduction

Kōkakos are monogamous birds that find, attract, and defend mates through song. After a juvenile fledges from the nest it begins recruitment for a pair-bond: 1 to 2 years after for females and 2 to 4 years after for males. Pair-bonding is not restricted to male and female matches, but can include female-female and male-male. Female-female pair-bonds will form an attachment to a territory for a short period of time, and attempt to mate at least once per season. These bonds are not recorded in recent literature due to increasing predation of nesting females by introduced mammalian species. In contrast, male-male pair-bonds occur regularly. Many experts believe that this is a recent phenomenon that is a direct result of the surplus male population, but others speculate that juvenile males will choose a same sex bond even when there are females available. Mating-pairs usually stay with the same partner for many years. Both the male and female are active in territorial protection and year round courtship rituals, including preening at the base of the beak and offerings of food to the female by the male. Kōkakos sexual selection is based on female choice. Females have been known to travel to up to nine different unpaired male territories before settling on a mate. Initially, the female is drawn to a male’s territory by the phrasing of his song, but a definitive choice is made based on the quality of resources within the territory and the physicality (body size, color of plumage, overall health) of the male. A male proves his physical health to the female by performing an “archangel” display, in which he lowers his head, extends his wings, and vigorously runs along branches near the female. During this display males are known to have leaves or twigs in their beak. Both the male and the female take part in mate guarding. Kōkakos' antiphonic duets relays the identity of the pair, how long they have been bonded, and the level of dedication to neighboring territories. During the dawn chorus a pair-bond or single kōkakos will perch at the top of a tall tree, usually a podocarp, within its territory and perform the duet or single song. The tall perch allows the birds to see their neighbors and enables them to be heard.

Mating System: monogamous

Once a mating pair is established in a territory, nesting and reproduction begins. The breeding season runs on average from October to March, but for some ‘good’ seasons can extend six months after. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ seasons seem to have a correlation with fruit availability, which makes up a large portion of kōkakos' diets. During a mating season kōkakos have been known to attempt breeding up to five times. In the event of a nest failure, due to predation or infertile eggs, the female can begin to re-nest within 4 to 5 weeks. In a successful season a pair has been known to fledge three clutches, each clutch containing an average of two eggs, at most three, which are laid at a one day interval. The average output of fledged offspring per season is six, assuming it is a ‘good’ season. In the event of a ‘bad’ season the youngest chick, which was laid last, usually does not fledge. Once laid, the eggs are incubated for 18 days on average before hatching, and chicks weigh 15 to 16 g at birth. During the first ten days of the chick’s life it experiences a growth rate of 10 g per day. The chicks stay in the nest for a period of 34 to more than 42 days before fledging, and even after fledging stay with their parents for 10 to 12 weeks. After a juvenile has fledged, on average, a female becomes sexually mature in 1 to 2 years, while a male becomes sexually mature within 2 to 4 years. At this time both the male and female begin recruitment for a pair-bond.

Breeding interval: Kokakos have been known to breed up to five times within one, annual breeding season.

Breeding season: The breeding season for Kokakos begins in October and runs until February.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 9.

Average time to hatching: 18 days.

Range birth mass: 15 to 16 g.

Range fledging age: 31 to 42 days.

Average fledging age: 34 days.

Range time to independence: 10 to 12 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

At birth, kōkakos are altricial and are incapable of taking care of themselves. A day old chick hatches with its eyes closed, no feathers, and limited movement, relying entirely on parental care for the first month and a half of its life. For kōkakos, the parental investment of the female is much more involved than that of the male. Pre-fertilization the female builds the nest almost completely on her own. The male does present some twigs and foliage to the female for nest building, while performing an ‘archangel’ display (found in greater detail in the mating system section). Male kōkakos are not incapable of building a nest. It is common for males to build nests when they form male-male pair-bonds. The nest is a bowl shaped, untidy mass made of a twig base, and entwined moss, lichen, ferns, treefern scales, epiphytic orchid, and dead wood built 2 to 32 m above the ground. The longest recorded time for nest construction is 11 days, but usually it is only a 2 to 5 day process. When the female begins construction she randomly gathers bits and pieces, spending very little time, but as the time to lay her eggs becomes closer she focuses more on the construction.

Before hatching, females and eggs are most vulnerable to predation. Nests are generally well hidden from areal predators by the thick canopy, but are defenseless against introduced mammalian predators, such as possums. When a nest is threatened by indigenous avian predators, such as Australasain harriers and New Zealand falcons, the pair will flee the nest to hide and delay returning until it is safe to come back or desert the nest completely. In the event of a mammalian threat males will hide and delay returning, while females either hide with the male or stay on the nest to become prey along with their eggs. When a nest is threatened by cuckoos, however, kōkakos will launch a physical attack on the invading bird.

Before fledging, both the male and the female will take part in feeding young, foraging with one another. Food for the chicks is brought back to the nest in the beak and throat. Parental investment is reduced as the brood becomes more independent. The length before independence varies from nest to nest. Some parents will allow their offspring to stay in their territory and continue to supply them with food, while others attempt to drive offspring away even before fledging. During the nesting and post-fledging period chicks become familiar with and learn localized song phrasing, leading to later mate choice. When juveniles finally leave the nest they begin to search for a territory of their own, and despite their limited powers of flight, travel reasonably long distances until they settle on a specific area. As an example, juvenile kōkakos in the Rotoehu forest would travel on average 1,450 m in search of a suitable territory.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Callaeas cinereus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2bd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Flux, I. & Innes, J.

Justification
This species declined very rapidly over the past three generations until the end of the 20th century, thus it qualifies as Endangered. It now has a very small effective population size because intense predation has left many subpopulations with an excess of unpaired males; however, intensive conservation efforts since 1990 that aimed to restore the population to c.1,000 pairs by the year 2020 have resulted in population increases that are more rapid than expected, so this target is set to be raised.


History
  • 2012
    Endangered
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Kōkakos were listed as an endangered species by 1994 and this status has not changed since. There are several reasons for the endangerment of kōkakos. The destruction of habitat by logging has left only 10% of kokakos' original native habitat, reducing territorial area available to juveniles and lowering food availability. The mammalian predators introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in the 1800s prey mainly on eggs, chicks, juveniles, and nesting females. The large numbers of mammalian predators have decreased fledging success. In the years during pest management 61% of birds fledged, while in years of no management the number was reduced to 29%. The female population of kōkakos has also been altered, leaving a large surplus of male-male bonds, which do not produce offspring. The introduction of browsing mammals, such as possums, goats, and deer, has caused food competition with kōkakos, and is also believed to play a role in the decline of kōkako populations.

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Population

Population
In 2008 the global population contained 769 breeding pairs (J. Innes in litt. 2009). The number of mature individuals is higher, but the population has a surplus of adult males, thus the effective population size is lower. It is estimated here to number at least 1,000 mature individuals, equivalent to 1,500 individuals in total.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The historical decline was due to large-scale habitat destruction, fragmentation and the introduction of predators and competitors. Predation of eggs and chicks by black rats Rattus rattus and brush-tailed possums Trichosurus vulpecula is the main cause of nest failure, whereas deaths to nesting adult females were caused by stoats Mustela erminea (Flux et al. 2006). These introduced predators are currently the primary threat to the species. At Mapara Wildlife Management Reserve, just 8% of nesting attempts successfully fledged young in the absence of predator control, versus 61% when predators were intensively trapped (Flux et al. 2006). T. vulpecula also competes for many preferred food items, and introduced goats and deer destroy favoured understorey food-plants (Innes et al. 1999). Historical forest destruction for logging has also been important, especially as the species is thought to require fairly large tracts of forest. These two threats were largely contemporaneous and so their relative importance is not completely clear (Rasch 1991).

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The combination of deforestation and the introduction of invasive mammalian predators in two waves of human colonisation since 1270 AD nearly extirpated this species. Just one quarter of the forest present 1,000 years ago is still standing. European settlers brought with them ship rats, brush-tail possums, stoats and wild cats (1) (2) (4), which prey heavily on young and female kokakos at the nest, leaving an excess of males who are not able to breed. These males sometimes pair up and nest with each other in the absence of female partners (10). Whilst in 1999 the North Island kokako population stood at 1,160 birds, only 396 of these were female, thus limiting the number of reproducing pairs (9).
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The combination of deforestation and the introduction of invasive mammalian predators in two waves of human colonisation since 1270 AD nearly extirpated this species. Just one quarter of the forest present 1,000 years ago is still standing. European settlers brought with them ship rats, brush-tail possums, stoats and wild cats (1) (2) (4), which prey heavily on young and female kokakos at the nest, leaving an excess of males who are not able to breed. These males sometimes pair up and nest with each other in the absence of female partners (10). Whilst in 1999 the North Island kokako population stood at 1,160 birds, only 396 of these were female, thus limiting the number of reproducing pairs (9).
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The combination of deforestation and the introduction of invasive mammalian predators in two waves of human colonisation since 1270 AD nearly extirpated this species. Just one quarter of the forest present 1,000 years ago is still standing. European settlers brought with them ship rats, brush-tail possums, stoats and wild cats (1) (2) (4), which prey heavily on young and female kokakos at the nest, leaving an excess of males who are not able to breed. These males sometimes pair up and nest with each other in the absence of female partners (10). Whilst in 1999 the North Island kokako population stood at 1,160 birds, only 396 of these were female, thus limiting the number of reproducing pairs (9).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
Most of the remaining habitat is protected and almost all key subpopulations are managed for the control of R. rattus and T. vulpecula. Recent research shows that "pulsing" poison bait delivery (at least three managed years every 10) is likely to be the most effective way of dealing with the predator threat once managed populations have reached a certain size (Bassé et al. 2003). Birds have been introduced to four islands (Heather and Robertson 1997). Young females have also been introduced to two managed remnant male/predominantly male populations on the mainland (I. A. Flux in litt. 1999), and several new populations (in areas of their previous range) have been established through translocation of adults to sites at which predators are controlled. Two small captive populations are held (Heather and Robertson 1997). Populations are encouraged to stay in protected areas using playback of their calls, attracting individuals to key areas (Anon. 2008). Genetic research has been undertaken to ensure sufficient genetic diversity in each subpopulation (Bain 2008).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Improve the understanding of the Te Urewera population, and modify management developed in smaller forest blocks, to assist large-scale protection and enhancement. Develop sustainable long-term management practices by research and mathematical modeling, and implement them. Support and develop captive breeding programmes, and aim to reintroduce birds to newly-managed forest areas (I. A. Flux in litt. 1999).

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Conservation

Intensive recovery planning and management since the mid 1980s has substantially recovered North Island kokako populations. In 2007, there were 18 increasing populations totalling 850 pairs. Such intensive management is vital, as nearly all unmanaged populations are now extinct. Translocations have established populations on four offshore islands and restored kokako to three sites in their original range (Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and East Cape), and further translocations are planned as part of widespread active restoration of mainland New Zealand forest ecosystems. The recovery of the kokako requires intensive control of introduced mammal pests, particularly ship rats and brushtail possums (10). Some populations are now managed by pulsed control effort, a method in which pest control has 'on' and 'off' years. This effectively controls pest populations whilst minimising the input of pest control poisons at any site, and means that conservation resources can be spent on other sites or problems during the 'off' years (11).
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Conservation

Intensive recovery planning and management since the mid 1980s has substantially recovered North Island kokako populations. In 2007, there were 18 increasing populations totalling 850 pairs. Such intensive management is vital, as nearly all unmanaged populations are now extinct. Translocations have established populations on four offshore islands and restored kokako to three sites in their original range (Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and East Cape), and further translocations are planned as part of widespread active restoration of mainland New Zealand forest ecosystems. The recovery of the kokako requires intensive control of introduced mammal pests, particularly ship rats and brushtail possums (10). Some populations are now managed by pulsed control effort, a method in which pest control has 'on' and 'off' years. This effectively controls pest populations whilst minimising the input of pest control poisons at any site, and means that conservation resources can be spent on other sites or problems during the 'off' years (11).
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Conservation

Intensive recovery planning and management since the mid 1980s has substantially recovered North Island kokako populations. In 2007, there were 18 increasing populations totalling 850 pairs. Such intensive management is vital, as nearly all unmanaged populations are now extinct. Translocations have established populations on four offshore islands and restored kokako to three sites in their original range (Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and East Cape), and further translocations are planned as part of widespread active restoration of mainland New Zealand forest ecosystems. The recovery of the kokako requires intensive control of introduced mammal pests, particularly ship rats and brushtail possums (10). Some populations are now managed by pulsed control effort, a method in which pest control has 'on' and 'off' years. This effectively controls pest populations whilst minimising the input of pest control poisons at any site, and means that conservation resources can be spent on other sites or problems during the 'off' years (11).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Kōkakos have no known negative effects on the economy.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In the process of kōkakos conservation efforts an onslaught on introduced mammalian predators has been implicated by areal poisoning and ground trapping. One of the main species targeted for pest control that affects kōkakos is Australian bush tail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Possums were introduced to New Zealand in the 1800s by colonizing Europeans to create a base for fur trading. Possums have become so well-adapted to the island that their numbers are now in the millions, which not only affects kōkakos' already dwindling numbers, but the local establishment of farmed cattle and deer. Farmed cattle and deer are of great economic importance to the people of New Zealand and the possum carries a strain of bovine tuberculosis that can infect both cattle and deer. Controlling the population of possums for kōkakos benefits the population size and lowers the chance of infecting local farms. Because kōkakos can only be found in New Zealand, ecotourism contributes to economic growth.

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Wikipedia

Kōkako

The Kōkako (Callaeas cinereus) is an endangered forest bird which is endemic to New Zealand. It is slate-grey with wattles and a black mask. It is one of three species of New Zealand Wattlebird, the other two being the near threatened Tieke (saddleback) and the extinct Huia. Previously widespread, Kōkako populations throughout New Zealand have been decimated by the predations of mammalian invasive species such as possums, stoats, cats and rats and their range has contracted significantly. There are two sub-species of Kōkako, North Island and South Island, although the South Island subspecies may be extinct. In the past this bird was called the New Zealand Crow: it is not a crow at all, but it looks like one from a distance.

Taxonomy[edit]

The Kōkako was first described by German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1788. Its species name is the Latin adjective cinereus "grey". Two subspecies have been described. The nominate subspecies from the South Island is likely to have become extinct.

The Kōkako appears to be a remnant of an early expansion of passerines in New Zealand and is one of three New Zealand wattlebirds of the family Callaeidae, the others being the endangered Tieke, or Saddleback, and the extinct Huia. New Zealand Wattlebirds have no close relatives apart from the Stitchbird, and their taxonomic relationships to other birds remain to be determined.[2]

Description[edit]

North Island Kōkako, closeup of head showing blue wattles.

The North Island Kōkako, Callaeas cinerea wilsoni has blue wattles (although this colour develops with age: in the young of this bird they are actually coloured a light pink).The South Island Kōkako, Callaeas cinerea cinerea, by contrast has largely orange wattles, with only a small patch of blue at the base .

Behaviour[edit]

The Kōkako has a beautiful, clear, organ-like song. Its call can carry for kilometres. Breeding pairs sing together in a bell-like duet for up to an hour in the early morning. Different populations in different parts of the North Island (if any populations of the South Island Kōkako remain they are at present unknown) have distinctly different songs which many people consider analogous with human "dialects" of a given language.

The Kōkako is a poor flier and seldom flies more than 100 metres. The wings of this species are relatively short and rounded. It prefers to hop and leap from branch to branch on its powerful grey legs. It does not fly so much as glide and when seen exhibiting this behaviour they will generally scramble up tall trees (frequently New Zealand podocarps such as rimu and matai) before gliding to others nearby. Its ecological niche is frequently compared to that of a flying squirrel. Its diet consists of leaves, fern fronds, flowers, fruit and invertebrates.

Kōkako and humans[edit]

In Māori and modern New Zealand culture[edit]

Māori myth refers to Kōkako in several stories. In one notable story, Kōkako gave Māui water as he fought the sun by filling its plump wattles with water and offering it to Māui to quench his thirst. Māui rewarded Kōkako for its kindness by stretching its legs until they were lean, long and strong, so that Kōkako could easily leap through the forest to find food.

The Kōkako appears on the reverse side of the New Zealand $50 note.

Threats and conservation[edit]

A Kōkako about to be released in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

North Island kōkako[edit]

In the early 1900s the North Island Kōkako was common in forests throughout the North Island and its offshore islands. Primary causes of Kōkako decline were forest clearance by settlers and the introduction of predators such as rats, stoats and possums. The North Island Kōkako is now endangered, with an estimated 750 pairs in existence (January 2009).[3]

Unlike many of New Zealand's most vulnerable birds, Kōkako survive in low numbers in several North Island native forests. However, research has shown that female Kōkako are particularly at risk of predation as they carry out all incubation and brooding throughout a prolonged (50-day) nesting period. Years of such predation have resulted in populations that are predominantly male and with consequent low productivity rates.[4]

Government-funded pest control programmes, and captive breeding programmes are critical to helping maintain population numbers on the mainland. A "research by management" approach has demonstrated that the Kōkako decline can be reversed and populations maintained in mainland forests by innovative management of their habitat. Current research aims to increase management efficiency to ensure long-term Kōkako survival. The use of biodegradable 1080 poison has been particularly beneficial in reversing population decline. For example, between 1991 and 1999 the breeding population of Kōkako increased tenfold in Mapara Wildlife Reserve (Waikato) thanks to a series of four aerial 1080 operations.[5] A population of Kōkako has also been re-established at the Otanewainuku Forest in the Bay of Plenty.[6]

New populations are also being established through releases on predator-free offshore islands. As a result, conservationists are hopeful of the species' long-term survival.

South Island Kōkako[edit]

Illustration of the two subspecies

In the early 1900s the South Island Kōkako was widespread in the South Island and Stewart Island. It has fared worse than the North Island subspecies and was formally declared extinct by the New Zealand Department of Conservation on 16 January 2007.[7] However in November 2013 the Ornithological Society of New Zealand changed its classification from extinct to "data deficient", after they accepted as genuine a reported sighting near Reefton in 2007.[8] The last accepted sighting before this was in 1967.[9] Unconfirmed sightings have also occasionally been reported.[10][11][12]

In the 1990s, Timberlands, the state owned enterprise tasked with managing the former New Zealand Forest Service's West Coast forests found some evidence of Kokako in the research into native forest ecology it conducted as part of its sustainable management program.[13]

Distribution[edit]

As at 2010, North Island Kōkako were present in Pureora Forest Park,[14] Whirinaki Forest Park,[15] Mapara Wildlife Reserve,[16] the Hunua Ranges,[17] Ngapukeriki,[18] Kaharoa Forest,[19] the Te Urewera National Park,[20] Puketi Forest,[21] the Waitakere Ranges [22] and the Waima/Waipoua Forests of Northland.[23] Kōkako can be seen relatively easily on a number of publicly accessible offshore island sanctuaries, including Tiritiri Matangi and Kapiti Island where the regenerating forest is low enough to provide close views. Captive birds can be seen at Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre and Otorohanga Kiwi House.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Callaeas cinereus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Ewen, John G; Flux, Ian; Ericson, Per GP (2006). (fulltext) "Systematic affinities of two enigmatic New Zealand passerines of high conservation priority, the hihi or stitchbird Notiomystis cincta and the kokako Callaeas cinerea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40 (1): 281–84. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.01.026. PMID 16527495. 
  3. ^ Ian Flux, North Island Kōkako Recovery Group: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/forest-bird-magazine/articles-archive/keeping-the-kokako%E2%80%99s-song-alive
  4. ^ North Island kōkako recovery plan 1999 - 2009 (pdf): http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/documents/science-and-technical/tsrp30.pdf
  5. ^ DOC's work with Kōkako: http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/kokako/docs-work/
  6. ^ http://www.kiwitrust.org/news.html
  7. ^ Atkinson, Kent (16 January 2007). "DoC declares South Island kokako 'extinct'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Downes, Siobhan (27 November 2013). "Extinct kokako may be alive". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 4 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Morton, Jamie (27 November 2013). "'Extinct' South Island kokako could still be alive". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Grey Ghost website for South Island kokako sightings: http://www.greyghost.org.nz/
  11. ^ Fresh signs of long-lost kokako in Fiordland - 29 Mar 2006 - NZ Herald
  12. ^ Angela Gregory and NZPA (17 January 2007). "Expert refuses to give up 20-year search for kokako". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  13. ^ N.Z. Forestry , May 1996
  14. ^ Wildlife Extra website: http://www.wildlifeextra.co.nz/go/nz/waipapa.html#cr
  15. ^ Tourism New zealand media release: http://www.newzealand.com/travel/media/press-releases/2009/7/nature&sustainability_kokako-return-to-whirinaki_press-release.cfm
  16. ^ Mapara Wildlife Reserve factsheet: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/waikato/waitomo-pureora/mapara-wildlife-reserve/
  17. ^ Auckland Regional Council website: http://www.arc.govt.nz/albany/index.cfm?AB89FE36-14C2-3D2D-B978-555D83F6CFA8
  18. ^ Mangaroa/Ohotu kōkako relocation: http://www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved/volunteer-join-or-start-a-project/start-or-fund-a-project/funding/nga-whenua-rahui/nga-whenua-rahui-fund/featured-projects/mangaroa-ohotu-kokako-relocation/
  19. ^ Kaharoa Kokako Trust newsletter: http://www.kokako.org.nz/KKTnewsletterNov2008.pdf
  20. ^ Sanctuaries of New Zealand website: http://www.sanctuariesnz.org/projects/TeUreweraMainlandIsland.asp
  21. ^ YouTube video of pest control to save Puketi Forest's last kōkako: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIfoGgEAntw
  22. ^ Rare kokako to sing in the Waitakere Ranges once again: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-releases/rare-kokako-sing-in-the-waitakere-ranges-once-again on the North Island
  23. ^ http://en.wikivoyage.org/Waima_Valley

Further reading[edit]

  • Murphy S.A., Flux I.A. and Double M.C. (2006) Recent evolutionary history of New Zealand's North and South Island Kokako (Callaeas cinerea) inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Emu 106: 41-48.
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