4 Kākāpō Facts That Are Almost Too Cool to Be True

By: Sascha Bos  | 
A green bird with a golden face and white beak peeks from behind green leaves
The kākāpō, the world's heaviest parrot, managed to come back from extinction. FeatherStalker Don / Shutterstock

The kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus) is a large flightless bird from New Zealand. Also known as the owl parrot and the night parrot, it has an owl-like face but isn't an owl at all; it's a flightless parrot.

Learn more about these record-setting and critically endangered birds.

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4. The Kākāpō Is the Loudest Bird in the World

This critically endangered parrot is one of the loudest animals on Earth and the loudest bird, with a 132-decibel mating call known as a "boom."

The kākāpō (sometimes spelled as "kakapo," without the Māori macron over each vowel) is the only flightless bird that engages in lek breeding.

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This means that during the breeding season, male kākāpōs engage in competitive courtship displays (lekking) to attract females. Male kākāpōs dig shallow bowls in the ground to amplify their booming vocalizations.

3. The Kākāpō Is the World's Heaviest Parrot

A bird with green feathers and a light beak walks in grass
The coloring of the kākāpō, seen here walking on the forest floor, is similar to that of the kea, another New Zealand bird. But the kākāpō sports a paler beak. Robin Bush / Getty Images

As the world's heaviest parrot species, it's not entirely surprising that the kākāpō cannot fly. An adult male kākāpō can weigh up to 13 pounds (6 kilograms).

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2. Kākāpōs Came Back From Extinction

The International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the kākāpō extinct in the wild in 1994, but by 2000, conservation efforts successfully saved the species from extinction and it was declared critically endangered in 2000.

Kākāpōs were abundant throughout the the North Island, South Island and Stewart Island in New Zealand before humans arrived; today, they live on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), Anchor Island and Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island).

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A major threat to these flightless birds is the presence of invasive mammalian predators like cats — which hunt kākāpōs — and stoats and rats, which eat kākāpō eggs. Today, all introduced predators which threaten kākāpōs have been removed from their protected habitat to create predator-free islands.

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1. Kākāpōs May Be the World's Longest-Living Birds

Kākāpōs live a long time. This island species may be the world's longest-lived bird, with a reported lifespan of up to 90 years of age. (The Guinness World Record for oldest bird went to Cookie, an 82-year-old cockatoo.)

Green bird walking on forest floor
The kākāpō's forest-colored plumage gives it natural camouflage.
FeatherStalker Don / Shutterstock

Unlike cockatoos, these land birds of New Zealand do not survive long in captivity, and their median lifespan in the wild is 40 years. It's essential that the kākāpō islands remain predator-free so the kākāpō population can continue to grow.

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