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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Kākāpō, the world's fattest parrot, named New Zealand's bird of the year

Parrots are very attractive, shy, Green in colour, chirpy, fly fast !


Ka Ka Ka Po is a 2016 comedy film written and directed by P. S. Vijay. The film stars Kesavan and Sakshi Agarwal in the lead roles, with Subbu Panchu in a supporting role.  The film was titled Ka Ka Ka Po, with a tagline of Kavithavum Kannadhasanum Kadhalika Poraanga. The makers of the film were briefly engaged in a tussle over the naming rights of the film with the team of Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum (2016). Both films were referred to by the media as Ka Ka Ka Po, a phrase taken from a popular dialogue from Chimbu Deven's Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi.

Parrots, also known as psittacines are birds of the roughly 372 species that make up the order Psittaciformes. Though we may never understand those differences, for sure, we get attracted by that great green parrot with red beaks. Commonly, in India we have seen  astrologers with green parrot in cage, parrot sliding out of the cage, picking up a card and fortune being read from the card so picked.  The attractive birds are subject to folklore and literature too.  In Sangam literature, ‘Kurinji thinai’ describes the beautiful landscape of the mountains along with the fauna and flora. The girls in love living close to nature, play in water falls,  develop bond with birds like parrots, swans, cranes asking them to convey their state of mind to their love.  

Parrots, also known as psittacines are birds of the roughly 372 species in 86 genera that make up the order Psittaciformes ~ never heard of this variety described in this post !    The fact is parrots come in many a colours.    

Miles away, birdwatching drones are taking to the skies of New Zealand to help scientists track the endangered kākāpō, which teeters on the brink of extinction. Before we proceed, kakapos are parrots and flightless !!  A few hundred years ago they were one of New Zealand’s most common birds before being hunted, killed by introduced pests and losing their forest homes to farming. Now there are only 211 adult birds left. The nocturnal, flightless parrot is one of Kiwis’ favourite birds and is known for its charismatic nature and owl-like face. Because the population is so small every kākāpō has a name – including Ruth, Hoki, Suzanne and Zephyr – and the population is subject to one of the most intensive management programmes of any species in the world. Infertility and inbreeding have been long-term issues for the birds’ reproductive efforts.

All of the birds now live and breed on predator-free offshore islands, where they are tagged with radio monitors to allow scientists to tramp into the bush and assess their health and wellbeing. But that process has been slow, expensive and time-consuming for the Department of Conservation, with the kākāpō’s preferred habitat remote and often inhospitable bushland. “We can’t always get signals from the ground, so it often takes many days to find the birds,” says Dr Andrew Digby, the scientific adviser for DOC’s kākāpō recovery programme.  Digby said that if scientists failed to find a bird for many days they hired a helicopter or plane – at great expense – to search larger areas.

Now comes the news that - Kākāpō, the world's fattest parrot, named New Zealand's bird of the year for 2020   The kākāpō - a critically endangered green parrot – first won bird of the year in 2008.  It can’t fly and it hides during the day but a critically endangered large parrot is back in the limelight having been named New Zealand’s bird of the year for an unprecedented second time. The green and fawn kākāpō – the world’s heaviest, longest-living parrot – first won in 2008. After conservation efforts, the population of this large parrot has risen from 50 during the 1990s to 213 now. It has finely blotched yellow-green plumage, a distinct facial disc, a large grey beak, short legs, large feet, and relatively short wings and tail. A combination of traits make it unique among its kind; it is the world's only flightless parrot, the heaviest parrot, nocturnal, herbivorous, visibly sexually dimorphic in body size, has a low basal metabolic rate and no male parental care, and is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system. It is also possibly one of the world's longest-living bird.

Kākāpō – is  also known as “mighty moss chicken” – used to live throughout Aotearoa, but today survive only on predator-free islands. Male kākāpō emit a loud booming sound to attract females and smell “like the inside of a clarinet case, musty and kind of like resin and wood,” said a spokesperson.  “The things that make kākāpō unique also make them vulnerable to threats. They are slow breeders, they nest on the ground and their main defence is to imitate a shrub. “Those qualities worked great in the island of birds the kākāpō evolved in but they don’t fool introduced predators like stoats, rats and cats.”

                 The world’s most famous Kākāpō is Sirocco, who reputedly thinks he is human after a respiratory illness meant he became the first male to be hand reared.  Aged 23 – scientists believe kākāpō can live for around 60 years – Sirocco has toured New Zealand to promote the plight of his species. In 2009, he rocketed to global fame after attempting to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine’s head during filming for the BBC documentary Last Chance to See with British actor Stephen Fry, who likened the bird’s face to that of a Victorian gentleman. The video of the incident – with commentary from Fry: “He’s really going for it!” – has had more than 18m views.

Under the last Labour-Green government, the Department of Conservation – the government agency in charge of looking after native species – received the biggest funding boost it has had in 15 years. The government has promised to put cameras on all commercial fishing boats, and New Zealand has a goal to be predator free by 2050.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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