Do you like reading about way-cool animals? Then you’ll enjoy reading about the strangest parrot in the world, the endangered kakapo, and the efforts of scientists and conservationists to save them from becoming extinct. It’s a fascinating look at the world’s only flightless parrot, with brilliant color close-up photographs of the birds by the talented photographer Nic Bishop. He and the author, Sy Montgomery, spent ten days on remote Codfish Island, off the coast of New Zealand, researching, documenting, and photographing the kakapo parrots and the attempts being made to save them. The book is another one in the award-winning educational series, “Scientists in the Field.”
There are only 91 kakapo parrots left that are living in the wild on Codfish Island. New Zealand’s National Kakapo Recovery Team is working to restore their numbers and to protect them from exposure to anything that might reduce their numbers further. In the mid-nineteenth century, there were millions of these birds, but their delicate habitat was invaded by predators introduced by humans. By 1950, the birds had become practically extinct.
Saving a species like the kakapo parrot can be hard work. Reading about how people are trying to keep them from becoming extinct made me feel that there is hope for saving them and other endangered species. No humans can visit the island without first disinfecting all of their belongings. The journey to the island requires a flight across stormy seas. Special food for the parrots has to be prepared and delivered, radio-wave tracking devices have to be installed, and live video cameras need to be monitored. Then, there’s work involved in taking care of the kakapo parrot’s eggs, like incubating them (keeping them warm), and feeding the baby birds once they’re hatched. Man may have been responsible for the kakapo’s current drastic drop in numbers, but we can also work to rescue them and ensure they’ll be around for other generations to marvel at and study.
Do you like honey? The feathers of the kakapo parrots smell like honey! This is yet another odd fact about these strange but beautiful birds. According to the author, “the kakapo is the rarest and the heaviest parrots at eight to nine pounds, and they are also the only flightless and night-active parrot.” Other parrots, like the Macaws, might be longer than the kakapos, because of their tail feathers, but none are heavier. Though there is not an “r” in the “kakapo,” the name is pronounced as if there were: KAR-ka-poe.
Meow, meow! The kakapos don’t make sounds like a cat, but they do have whiskers that are kind of like a cat’s! Ruf, ruf! They don’t bark, either, but they do make growling sounds. Unlike other parrots, the kakapos can’t learn to imitate words and talk, but besides growling, they can also make booming noises like a bullfrog, or “ching like a cash register.”
Reading about Sy Montgomery’s and Nic Bishop’s experiences during the ten days they spent on Codfish Island was very interesting. This book is a great way to learn more about these very rare and beautiful birds, and the efforts to rescue them from becoming extinct. I’m guessing that one day, because of the efforts of people like Sy and Nic, and the many scientists helping the kakapos, that hopefully, they can recover their population numbers enough to be taken off of the endangered list. That day is still far off, but it’s good to know that there are people trying to save the kakapos and other endangered species around the world.