Waikawa on her nest.

Image: Brodie Philp | DOC

Introduction

And it could be the biggest one on record. We predict 30–50 new chicks – a huge boost to the kākāpō population of just 147.

Date:  05 February 2019

This season almost every breeding-age female is expected to lay eggs. But kākāpō struggle with infertility and disease, so it’s not just a numbers game – not every egg will hatch, and not every chick will make it to adulthood.

We predict breeding years by counting rimu fruit

Kākāpō only breed when rimu trees put out masses of fruit, which happens about every two to four years.

Early fruit counts suggested this could be a big year, and sure enough, it’s all happening now. Breeding kicked off even earlier than usual and the first chicks have already hatched.

It’s all about sex and blood lines

Our goal for the season is to make sure kākāpō are healthy at a population level. This means a balanced sex ratio and solid genetic representation from all the founding blood lines.

Did you know? Heavier female kākāpō are more likely to produce male chicks.

We’ve got our hands full

Breeding seasons take months of preparation, intensive management, volunteer work, research and science – on top of our regular business-as-usual management.

Innovation improves the odds

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Smart egg
Image: Stu Cockburn | DOC

Kākāpō management has come a long way since the programme began in 1990. We’re using innovative technology to ensure the best outcomes for kākāpō. We’re focussing on things like assisted breeding and better genetic management, moving away from manual nest minding and hand rearing. 

New technology includes smart eggs, drones and better genetic management. Plus, we recently completed mapping the genome of all living kākāpō in the Kākāpō125+ project.

Although success is sweet, we need new predator-free sites to house the growing kākāpō population. That’s why initiatives such as Predator Free 2050 are so important.

We couldn’t do it without our friends

Kākāpō are a taonga species to all Aotearoa New Zealand. We work in partnership with Ngāi Tahu with support from National Partner Meridian Energy.

This season, Meridian have also provided additional funding to help us make the most of the season with smart eggs and assisted breeding. They’re also helping raise awareness of the plight of the kākāpō by recruiting a saxophonist to help get the birds in the mood!

We also worked with the International Centre of Birds of Prey (ICBP) to develop smart eggs, and individual experts from around the globe in assisted breeding.

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