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New Zealand parrot facts for kids

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New Zealand parrot
New Zealand Kaka, North Island subspecies
(Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis)
at Auckland Zoo, New Zealand
Scientific classification

Bonaparte, 1849


The Stringipoidea is a small superfamily of New Zealand parrots. It only has three genera: Nestor, the Kakapo Strigops and the fossil Nelepsittacus.

The genus Nestor consists of the Kea, and the Kaka, while the genus Strigops contains the iconic Kākāpō. All living species are endemic to New Zealand. The modern common species names, Kea, Kākā and Kākāpō, are the same as the original Māori names.

The nearby island species, the Norfolk Kaka and the Chatham Kaka, became extinct in recent times. The extinct species of the genus Nelepsittacus have been extinct for 16 million years. All living forms are threatened. Human activity caused the two extinctions and the decline of the other three species. Settlers introduced invasive species, such as pigs and possums, which eat the eggs of ground nesting birds. Also hunting for food, killing as agricultural pests, habitat loss, and introduced wasps have added to the problem.

The family diverged from the other parrots around 82 million years ago when New Zealand broke off from Gondwana, and the ancestors of the genera Nestor and Strigops diverged from each other between 60 and 80 million years ago.


Very little is known about the Chatham kaka. The genus Nelepsittacus consists of three described and one undescribed species recovered from early Miocene deposits in Otago.

Common name
(binomial name)
Image Description Range and habitat

(Nestor notabilis)

Kea (Nestor notabilis) -on ground-8.jpg
48 cm (19 in) long. Mostly olive-green with scarlet underwings and rump. Dark-edged feathers. Dark brown beak, iris, legs, and feet. Male has longer bill. New Zealand: South Island

High-level forests and subalpine scrublands 850–1400 m AMSL.
South Island kaka

(Nestor meridionalis meridionalis)

Kaka -Stewart Island-1c.jpg
Similar to the North Island kaka, but slightly smaller, brighter colours, the crown is almost white, and the bill is longer and more arched in males. New Zealand: South Island

Unbroken tracts of Nothofagus and Podocarpus forests 450–850 m AMSL in summer and 0–550 m in winter.
North Island kaka

(Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis)

About 45 cm (18 in) long. Mainly olive-brown with dark feather edges. Crimson underwings, rump, and collar. The cheeks are golden/brown. The crown is greyish. New Zealand: North Island

Unbroken tracts of Nothofagus and Podocarpus forests between 450–850 m AMSL in summer and 0–550 m in winter.
Norfolk kaka

(Nestor productus)
Extinct by 1851 approx.

About 38 cm long. Mostly olive-brown upperparts, (reddish-)orange cheeks and throat, straw-coloured breast, thighs, rump and lower abdomen dark orange. Formerly endemic on Norfolk Island and adjacent Phillip Island

Rocks and trees
Chatham kaka

(Nestor chathamensis)
Extinct by 1550–1700

Appearance unknown, but bones indicate reduced flight capability Only known from subfossil bones. Formerly endemic on Chatham Island of New Zealand


(Strigops habroptila)
Critically endangered

Strigops habroptilus 1-1c.jpg
Large rotund parrots 58–64 cm (23–25 in) long; males are larger than females and weigh 2–4 kg (4.4–8.8 lb) at maturity. Mostly green with brown and yellow mottled barring, the underparts are greenish-yellow. Its face is pale and owl-like. New Zealand: Maud, Chalky, Codfish and Anchor Islands
Climax Nothofagus (beech) and Podocarpus (conifer) forests, regenerating subalpine scrub, snow tussock Danthonia grassland 10–1400 m AMSL.

Common names

Current distribution of extant species, as well as previous distribution of extinct island species.

All common names for species in this family are the same as the traditional Māori names. The Māori word kākā derives from the ancient Proto-Polynesian word meaning parrot. Kākāpō is a logical extension of that name, as means night, resulting in kākā of the night or night parrot, reflecting the species' nocturnal behaviour. (In modern orthography of the Māori language, the long versions of the vowels a and o are written with macrons; i.e., ā and ō.) The etymology of kea in Māori is less clear; it might be onomatopoeic of its call kee-aah.

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