Kakapo hatchling brings hope for population

Zephyr the latest kakapo chick (Andrew Digby / DOC)
Zephyr the latest kakapo chick (Andrew Digby / DOC)

The 46th kakapo chick of a record breeding season hatched this morning, bringing hope its survival will add to the critically endangered bird's numbers.

Zephyr 2 was born on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island shortly before 7am, and its birth ends the most successful breeding season in the 25-year history of the Department of Conservation's Kakapo Recovery Programme.

But it's not out of the woods yet, with the birdling's very survival still hanging precariously in the balance.


In all, 38 of the chicks born this season are alive and well, but they remain vulnerable and may not survive into adulthood.

"The flash-flood on Anchor Island last month, which killed three chicks, underlines just how precarious their lives can be -- but we know that the Recovery Programme team is doing everything it can to ensure as many reach adulthood as possible," Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

The chicks are checked and weighed regularly until they fledge at around 10 weeks old. If they need a helping hand, they'll be brought in for hand-rearing.

There are only 123 adult birds remaining, but it won't be until the chicks are six months old that they'll be added to the tally.

This year's breeding season is the first time all three islands which hold populations of kakapo -- Codfish and Anchor Islands in Southland and Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier in Hauraki Gulf -- have birthed new chicks.

The season also marked a large number of first-time parents, as well as the first successful breeding on Anchor Island in the decade they've been there.

The flightless kakapo are fussy about breeding, only reproducing every two to four years based on the abundance of their primary food source -- fruit from trees like rimu and beech.