The once and future Kauri dancer




Kākāriki - Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae

New Zealand parakeet
Red crowned parakeet
Yellow crowned parakeet

Once the most common bird in kauri bush, its fast breeding nature gives hope that it may once again populate its natural environment with the enthusiasm it once did.. It was once common throughout the country, and there are subspecies on the Kermadec and Chatham Islands, Lord Howe, Norfolk and Macquarie Island, as well as New Caledonia. The introduction of mammal predators all but destroyed populations of kākāriki in all places.

The red crowned kākāriki is the more common, but there is also a subspecies, Cyanoramphus auriceps, with a yellow crown above the crimson frontal band. In the red crowned bird both crown and frontal band are crimson. Otherwise their plumage is bright green apart from a crimson splash on their rumps. Dark green tail feathers and leading edge of flight feathers are rich blue, Grey bills and legs Their colour has inspired the Maori word for green, kākāriki.

The red on kākāriki is said to be stains from the blood of the hero, Tawhaki when he fell to his death from the heavens. The colour is highly sacred (tapu) and in the case of kākāriki is considered to be amongst the richest metaphors for use in poetry.

Often see in large flocks when they were common, they could be very noisy with the mass cries of ki-ki-ki-ki, which, with their fast flight and bright colours brought energy to the bush. They are primarily seed eaters and will flock to rich food locations and drinking spots in dry conditions. They also eat berries and insects of all types, as well as the soft parts of plants such as young shoots.

The breed easily, and over an extended season, producing clutches of around 6 eggs, with the young birds leaving the nest at around 9 weeks after the eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated by the female for around 3 weeks, during which time she is fed by the male.

Both red and yellow crowned kākāriki are extremely rare in modern kauri forest.