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Kakariki

The three species of Kakariki or New Zealand parakeets are the most common species of parakeet in the genus Cyanoramphus, family Psittacidae. The birds’ Maori name, which is the most commonly used, means “small parrot”[. The three species on mainland New Zealand are the Yellow-crowned Parakeet Cyanoramphus auriceps, the Red-crowned Parakeet or Red-fronted Parakeet, C. novaezelandiae, and the critically endangered Malherbe’s Parakeet or Orange-fronted Parakeet. The Kakariki are members of the parrot family which are mainly tropical birds notable for their colourful plumage.

 

Kakariki

Description
The Kakariki are basically bright green in colour but as with most green coloured birds, some very beautiful colour varieties are produced. The red-crowned Kakariki is distinguished by a bright crimson forehead, crown and a streak through the eye with violet-blue on the wings while the yellow-crowned has a golden yellow crown. Sometimes specimens have been found where the green gives way to a bright canary yellow while the bright red and violet remain. There have been other specimens taken which are bright red or predominately blue.

Distribution and Habitat
All above subspecies are native to New Zealand, and have become endangered as a result of habitat destruction following European settlement and nest predation by introduced species of mammal. Scarce on the mainland, kakariki have survived well on outlying islands, and also through breeding in captivity since they make good pets. A licence from the New Zealand Department of Conservation is now required to breed them in captivity.
Red-crowned parakeets favour holes in branches and trunks of trees, particularly decaying trees, for nesting. They also use crevices in cliffs or among rocks, burrows in the ground or densely matted vegetation. The yellow-crowned, on the other hand, is more exclusive in its use of holes in trees for nesting.
During incubation, the cock calls the hen off the nest and feeds her by regurgitation. Both sexes feed the chicks but the cock usually transfers the food to the hen which then passes it along to the chicks. The red-crowned fledglings are fed on the ground for a period before they can fly which makes them especially vulnerable to predators.

Kakariki 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 and may also chatter and babble when feeding. The yellow-crowned, although rare, is to be found throughout the country in forested areas while the red-crowned variety is common to abundant on many islands free of mammalian predators but very rare on the mainland. On Little Barrier Island, the yellow-crowned lives mainly in the forest or ridges above 300 metres while the red-crowned lives mainly in the lower hills and valleys. Although their habitat on the island overlaps, hybridisation does not seem to occur.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis has indicated that the Orange-fronted Parakeet is a separate species and not just a colour variation of the Yellow-crowned Parakeet. The Orange-fronted Parakeet is highly endangered, with less than 200 individuals remaining in the North Canterbury region of the South Island. Furthermore, Chatham Island’s Yellow-crowned Parakeet and the red-crowned populations of New Caledonia, Norfolk Island and the subantarctic islands have been determined to be distinct species (Boon et al., 2001).

Aviculture
The Kakariki are probably the most active of all parrots, seldom staying still, never moving slowly and often seen running up and down the wire of the aviary without using their beaks. The Kakariki is a delight in anyones collection as they are always friendly and confiding towards humans and with their mobility, are always the centre of attention for visitors.Because of their mobility, they should never be kept in a small aviary as a minimum, the aviary should measure 3.6 metres long x 0.9 metres wide x 1.8 metres high. Wooden construction is satisfactory as they are not great wood chewers however, as they like foraging on the ground, they should either have a natural floor (either earth or sand) or if concrete, a regular supply of freshly dug earth should be given to them.Pairs should be kept in individual flights for breeding purposes as the cocks will go for each other and they can kill.In captivity, the Kakariki is a short lived bird compared to other species of parrot – some will last only 5 years.