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Yellow-crowned parakeet/kākāriki

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March 2018 Issue

A colourful, though hard to spot, bird

The yellow-crowned parakeet (kākāriki) belongs to the Cyanoramphus family which includes five other similar-sized green parrots. They were once very common throughout New Zealand but are now rare or uncommon in most places on the mainland.

Conservation status: Endemic species classified as ‘not threatened’.

Features: Kākāriki are small, forest-dwelling parrots with long tails and an identifying yellow crown on the front of their heads. The bill is bluish-grey in colour with a black tip and sharp cutting edge used for splitting open seeds. Between the bill and the distinctive yellow crown is a narrow crimson band. Capping off these red and yellow colours are some blue feathers on the leading edge of the wings and a red spot on each side of the rump. Both sexes are about the same size (25cm) but the male is heavier at 51g compared to the female’s 41g.

Call: The main chatter call sounds like ‘ki-ki-ki-ki’ and is made by both sexes when flying.

Nesting: Although mostly summer breeders (October through to December), kākāriki can breed throughout the year when food is ample. The nests are simple affairs, made in holes in large trees up to 32m off the ground. They lay between two and nine white eggs which take 19 days to hatch and the chicks will fledge at 47 days. While the female incubates, the male will feed her by regurgitation. He also helps feed the young by regurgitating the food to the female, who passes it to the chicks.

Diet: Kākāriki spend most of their time high in trees eating seeds, fruits, buds, flowers and invertebrates, but will occasionally visit the forest floor to eat seeds and to bathe.

Bird spotting tip: Kākāriki can generally be found in tall, mature native forest and prefer to spend most of their time very high in the canopy. For that reason, you’re more likely to hear their chatter than see them. Use your peripheral vision to detect movement, as they fly from tree to tree.

Feathery fact: On the mainland, kākāriki are mostly confined to tall forests, but those on offshore islands often live in low scrub and even open grassland.