Kākāriki, meaning ‘small green parrot’ are beautiful forest birds. They are about 25 – 28 cm in length and weigh 70 – 80 g. They feed on berries, seeds, fruit and insects, and generally nest in holes in trees, making them vulnerable to predators.
Kākāriki are basically bright green in colour but can be identified by the distinguishing coloured areas on the head, there are five main species of kākāriki:
- Yellow-crowned parakeet has a yellow patch on the head and a red frontal band above the beak.
- Orange-fronted parakeet has a pale yellow patch on its head with an orange band above the beak and was long thought to be a colour variation of the yellow-crowned parakeet but is now confirmed as a distinct species.
- Red-crowned parakeet is distinguished by a bright crimson forehead, crown and a streak extending back beyond the eyes.
- Forbes’ parakeet looks similar to a yellow-crowned parakeet but is only found on Mangere island in the Chatham group of islands.
- Antipodes Island parakeet has an entirely green head.
The Antipodes Island parakeet is the largest species, followed by the red-crowned parakeet, which is in turn larger than the yellow-crowned and orange-fronted species.
- Kākāriki feed on berries, seeds, fruit and insects.
- It is not unusual to see kākāriki foraging on the ground.
- Kākāriki generally nest in holes in trees.
- Red-crowned parakeets also sometimes nest in crevices in cliffs or among rocks, in burrows in the ground or in densely matted vegetation.
- Nesting generally occurs from October through to December, although they will nest through winter if food is abundant.
- The female incubates 5–9 eggs for around 20 days until they hatch. Both birds assist with the feeding of the young.
- During incubation, the male calls the female off the nest and feeds her by regurgitation.
- Both parents feed the chicks but the male usually transfers the food to the female, who then passes it along to the chicks.
- Red-crowned fledglings are fed on the ground for a period before they can fly, making them especially vulnerable to predators.
- Kākāriki are usually solitary or found in pairs, although in autumn and winter they may form small flocks.
- In flight they make a loud rapid chatter that sounds like ‘ki-ki-ki-ki’.