The Return of the Kākā - Part 3

Kākā, enriched

Like so much fiction with dystopian elements, the novel I’m writing has bits of utopia in it. It’s via this route that kākā have found a place. Jenny Jones’ Kaka has helped bring the species close. This short book is shelved in the children’s section, and for a non-scientist it makes an appealing first look into the parrot’s gifts and quirks.

Kākā are partly nocturnal, I learnt, and sometimes continue to feed at night. That explains the kākā that beaked about the pōhutukawa the other night, as my daughter and I played soccer after dark. They’re also very social and call to each other constantly, even when feeding alone. Sometimes two males will feed one nesting female, and when nesting inside tree trunks, females have a way of extracting sugar from the internal streams of sap. At other times they rip away bark to get the grubs underneath.

Knowing these things enriches those moments when you blunder across kākā in the pines, and they’re attacking the bark with such vigour that bits of tree splatter down through the undergrowth. Or when they spy you from mānuka and bob their heads and parrot-walk down a branch, or dig under a wing for nits.

Clear, well-framed photographs in Jones’ book deepen these insights. You can see the versatile feet she’s talked about, the arched beak. And like the Our World documentaries we were subjected to as children, but more subtly, the book takes a moment near the end to point out how singular the kākā have always been, thanks to their skills and looks, their intelligence and cheek, and how rare and precious they have become, thanks to us.

The Return of the Kākā - Part 2