Kokako breeding in New Zealand

This video says about itself:

The Kokako is a very curious bird from New Zealand, of so ancient a lineage that it is certain that it has been in this country since before the time when New Zealand first became an oceanic island or archipelago. Its ancestor probably became isolated when the super continent, Gondwanaland, began to fragment some 80 million years ago. It is found nowhere else in the world, nor does it have any obvious living relatives. The dawn chorus of the Kokako was a common sound in the forest before European settlement.

The incredibly beautiful melodious organlike notes hang over the valley before being answered by another of its kind, somehow enhanced and made more poignant by the dark brooding quality of the bush. Male and female may sing together for periods of up to half an hour, performing a duet of impressive harmony and complexity. Neighbouring Kokako may join in singing the same themes, resulting in a rondo-like chorus. In addition to song, Kokako communicate with a variety of calls, clicks, buzzes, catlike noises and screeches, all used in particular social contexts. According to a recently published document, less than 400 pairs of Kokako currently exist.

From Wildlife Extra:

Kokako breeding success

First Kokako breeding in Fiordland since Extinction

June 2011. Conservationists are celebrating evidence that kokako have bred on Secretary Island in New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound. This is believed to be the first time in more than 30 years that kokako have bred in the South Island following the extinction of the South Island kokako. The Fiordland Lobster Company funded the transfer of twenty seven kokako from the North Island to Secretary Island during 2008-9, in a bid to re-establish kokako in Fiordland.

Company representative John Steffens accompanied Department of Conservation (DOC) staff on a visit to the island in March to check on the released birds, when a young bird was observed, confirming that the released birds are successfully breeding and raising chicks.

“This was an absolutely amazing sight – a wild Fiordland hatched kokako” said DOC ranger Megan Willans. “By playing calls to the bird we were able to enjoy a really good look at it and now we’re excited to see how quickly these birds breed and expand across Secretary Island.”


Kokako were once widespread across the forests of New Zealand, one subspecies in the north and another in the South Island. Unfortunately, they are easily killed by rats, possums and stoats. The last confirmed South Island Kokako sighting was in 1967 and by the late 1980’s there were as few as 350 pairs left in the North Island. In 2007 DOC sadly conceded the South Island kokako extinct.

However in the last 20 years, North Island kokako have made a strong recovery. Pest control, transfers to secure offshore islands and the efforts of groups such as the Kaharoa Kokako Trust have meant there are now healthy populations in a number of northern forests.

Important seed dispersers

“Returning kokako to southern forests will not only mean we get to hear their enchanting calls, but like the kereru and extinct moa, they are important seed dispersers vital for the regeneration of our forests” said Ms Willans.

“This project stands out because it’s one of the first times a surrogate species has been transferred specifically to replace a recently extinct species’ Ms Willans said. “Fiordland Lobster’s commitment to the project was a bold move”.

Funding the translocation of the North Island kokako to Secretary Island is an extension of the Fiordland Lobster Company’s commitment to conservation and the restoration of islands in Fiordland. Investing in the unique values on the mainland and islands is seen as a natural extension of the company’s reliance on the long-term sustainability of the marine environment.

Fiordland Lobster Company board member John Steffens said having fished in the Doubtful Sound area in the mid 1990s he was familiar with the decimation of the birdlife on Secretary Island. He said the transformation since DOC’s intervention is dramatic and the birdsong is now vibrant. In a recent visit to the island searching for kokako John saw kokako, kaka, weka, kakariki and bellbirds [see also here]. “The proliferation of birdlife is amazing,” he said.

The restoration story

In 2008 ten kokako were translocated from, Mapara in the North Island near Te Kuiti. Transmitters were attached to these birds so DOC could monitor their initial survival on Secretary Island to make certain there was suitable food and shelter for kokako. The results showed that Secretary Island provided these needs for kokako, and so in 2009 another 17 birds were translocated from Kaharoa and Rotoehu forests near Rotorua.

This transfer was no easy task and was an expensive undertaking. Kokako were caught in high rig mist-nets in the forest canopy and were held in make-shift aviaries during catching. After 10 days they were then shipped in boxes via car, plane and finally helicopter to Secretary Island over 10 hours, with a number of feeding stops along the way.

The Fiordland Lobster Company’s sponsorship of island restoration projects in Fiordland is about their commitment and passion for Fiordland and is reflective of the rising tide of environmental awareness amongst Fiordland Fishermen. Some members of the company have over 40 years experience living and working in Fiordland. In 2005 the company funded an intensive trapping programme on Pigeon Island in Dusky Sound. By 2007 the stoat population had been wiped out and the company helped reintroduce mohua and South Island robin to the island.

The physical difference between the North and South Island kokako is that the North Island bird has a blue wattle and the South Island bird had orange wattles.

3 thoughts on “Kokako breeding in New Zealand

  1. Pingback: New Zealand kokako birds’ songs | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: New Zealand South Island kokako still alive? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: New Zealand Bird of the Year competition, 2015 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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