Stewart Island, New Zealand
New Zealand has only 3 parrot species, and all have characteristics which make each quite unique.
On Stewart Island we miss out on the Kea, or Alpine Parrot, and the Kakapo is found only on Codfish Island off the North West Coast of the Island. It is extremly rare, with only around 120 birds. It is highly protectedand managed by our Department of Conservation and is effectively unavailable for viewing.
However we do have lots of Kaka, and see them virtually every day around our house. Unusually and perhaps uniquely for parrots worldwide, they have a “feathered” tongue as do most specialist nectar feeders. But in addition to nectar they feed heavily on fruit and insects. They will also rip the bark of our native Totara trees and feed on the fleshy cambium layer beneath. They also target the small cherry like fruit from the Miro tree.Surprisinglynot for the flesh which our native pigeon eats, but rather they will split theincrediblyhard stone for the tinykernel, leaving the flesh untouched.
They nest quite low to the ground in hollow trees and similar locations and thus are extremely vulnerable to introduced mamalian predation, in particular the mustelids (stoats etc) and rats. Stewart Island is fortunately mustelid free, but rats are a real problem. However Ulva Island in Paterson Inlet …..which is now rat free ….provides a secure breeding site, and our Kaka population has soared.
And while seeing a Kaka is something of an event on mainland New Zealand, here on Stewart Island we regularly will have a dozen or more on our front deck entertaining our guests.
Kaka in our Garden
Like most parrots our Kaka are real characters. Not as destructive as their cousin the Kea, never the less they are much addicted to chewing on things. Have a look at the bird feeder in our web cam www.sailsashore.co.nz/garden.html . The bird house once had little spires and entire perches. In the winter we feed them a weak sugar mixture (in the web cam view) and they …. with a lot of help from Tui & Bellbirds….can easily empty the couple of cups we put out each day. They quickly worked out that we were the “sugar daddies” and if the bowl is empty in the morning we’ll often get a bird hanging upside down on our bay window rapping on the glass, and even beating their wings and yelling at us for their morning fix.
Kaka and Tui are very competitive around a food source.
We don’t often get snow here and this was quite a big fall for us.
This video was taken a couple of winters ago.
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Peter Tait is a professional nature guide based at Stewart Island, New Zealand, and he works primarily on Ulva Island Open Sanctuary. Peter has been resident on the Island for over 40 years and was one time Forest Ranger in Charge of Stewart Island. Fishing followed forestry and was in turn followed by Talisker, a 17m charter yacht. He is qualified Skipper Deep Sea Fishing Vessel. In addition to guiding Peter and his wife Iris are hosts at Sails Ashore Lodge.
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