Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kōkako

Callaeas cinereus
The Kōkako is an island bird found only in New Zealand. it is, like many bird of those islands, Endangered. In fact, it belongs to a small family of Wattlebirds that contains only three known members-- the Tieke (listed as Near Threatened), and the Huia, which is already extinct.

The Kōkako comes in two different subspecies-- North Island and South Island, though it is very possible that the South Island subspecies is already extinct (there have been no official sightings in a few decades, but there have been numerous unconfirmed reports). The two differ by their location and by their wattle color, as the North birds sport blue wattles, while the South birds have orange.

Aside from their wattles, the Kōkako are relatively plain looking, with grey feathers and a black mask. They are better known for their voices than their beauty-- in the mornings breeding pairs will single lovely duets that can lost more than a half hour. Other birds will occasionally join in, creating a "bush choir."

Kōkako are featured in numerous Māori myths and legends. The most notable of these is the story where the  Kōkako helped the hero Maui in his fight with the sun. The bird filled its wattle up with water and gave it to the hero. As a reward, Maui gave the Kōkako long legs so that he could move easier on the forest floor. (Interesting note: Kōkako can fly, they are just really bad at it).

There are currently several programs in place to help sustain and rebuild the Kōkako population, including ones centered around reintroduction and pest management. Though they are endangered, the birds actually have an increasing population, which is fantastic for the species!

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : New Zealand
Size : Weight about 230g
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passeriformes
Family : Callaeidae -- Genus : Callaeas -- Species : C. cinereus

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