The kaka (Nestor meridionalis) is a ‘nationally endangered’ native
parrot, quite closely related to the kea of the alpine zone of the South
Island. When Europeans first came to New Zealand kaka were very
abundant, but by 1900 they had declined to localised flocks mostly in
remote forested areas and on the larger off-shore islands. Numbers have
continued to decline since then and the remaining populations have
become more isolated (Robertson et al. 2007). The decline is largely due
to predation by stoats and rats, and, in beech forest, competition with
introduced wasps for honey dew. Great Barrier is certainly one of the
few places in the country where they can be seen easily and one of their
main predators is absent. Kaka are noisily conspicuous, and strong
fliers, so it is easy to get the impression that there are more about
than there really are. That was the reason for our ‘simultaneous’ kaka
count on boxing day (26th Dec. 2007).
Over 50 people completed 45 ‘kaka count’ data sheets that evening. We
had a pretty good coverage of the whole island (see Table), although, as
some of the more remote places such as Hirakimata and Te
Paparahi were not covered. However, a total of 222 birds were counted.
If we include the three barbequed by Wesley Crankhandle and his mates at
Okiwi that comes to 225!
As many correspondents pointed out, the day was very windy and birds
generally were not much in evidence. Not everyone counted during the
prescribed hour, and because of this, and also because some counts were
on ‘adjacent’ properties and many counted birds were on the wing, we
cannot be sure that some birds were not counted twice. We can get around
this by assuming that the maximum single count for any ‘location’ gives
us the minimum number present at that location (Wesley may have to think
about that). On that basis we can say with some certainty that at least
141 different birds were counted. Taking into account the other data
provided about the numbers seen in the previous week, or normally seen
in the vicinity of the counter, provides a figure of 221.
Our count represents a sample rather than the whole population. However,
the uncounted areas of the island, although large, may not contain many
kaka at this time of year. I say this mainly because almost all the
reports said the non-flying birds seen were feeding in pohutukawa,
puriri, or pine trees, or in flax. As these plants are much commoner in
the coastal areas than further inland it seems unlikely that there were
a lot of birds somewhere else feeding on something else. I would
‘guestimate’ that the true adult breeding population is in the range of
Thanks to all permanent Barrierites and visitors who took the trouble to
participate. We will send you a slightly more detailed synopsis in due
course. Any further counts or comments will be welcome. Phone John Ogden
at Awana on 4290980.
Robertson, C. J. R., Hyvonen, P., Fraser, M. J. & Pickard, C. R. 2007.
Atlas of Bird Distribution in New Zealand. 1999-2004. Ornithological
Soc. of New Zealand Inc.
Table 1. Kaka Count Results 261207