The Population of New Zealand’s Rarest Bird Just Doubled

The kākāriki karaka parakeet is making a comeback with 150 chicks already hatched this season.

(Courtesy of NZ Department of Conservation)

New Zealand's rarest mainland forest bird the kākāriki karaka – or orange-fronted parakeet – is having the best breeding season in decades. The department of conservation located 31 nests and at least 150 wild born chicks were hatched already this season.

The species was thought to be extinct before it was rediscovered in Canterbury in 1993 but the population has been very small. There were only about 100 to 300 birds in Canterbury before this year's hatching season began. This year's bounty of chicks could more than double the numbers of rare kākāriki karaka.

“It is great news that this year there are more than three times the number of nests compared to previous years," said New Zealand's minister of conservation Eugine Sage in a DOC release. "This year’s epic breeding provides a much-needed boost to the kākāriki karaka population."

This budgie sized native bird eats plants and insects and during a beech mast year seeds. This year's mast is the largest in over 40 years.

 “There has been so much seed on the beech trees the birds just keep on breeding with some parakeet pairs onto their fifth clutch of eggs. When there’s no beech mast they typically have just one or two clutches,” said Sage.
The kākāriki karaka have been bred in captivity since 2003 by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch, Auckland Zoo, and the Orana Wildlife Park. It has taken decades to get the numbers where they are today. There have been 191 releases of captive bred birds over the last four years.

This year 62 were released back to their habitat with the help of Christchurch Helicopters. These are the birds that are successfully breeding now.

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