Strigops habroptila Gray, 1845:62

Kakapo (Māori), Kākāpō, Owl parrot



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Strigops habroptilus Gray, 1845 [orthographic error]; Rhigops habroptelus Gray, 1845; Strigops habroptilus habroptilus Gray, 1845; Strigops habroptilus innominatus Mathews and Iredale, 1913; Strigops habroptilus parsoni Mathews and Iredale, 1913; Strigops greyii Gray, Ibis, 1862, p. 230; Stringops greyi Finsch, Papag. i. p. 253 (1867); Strigopsis habroptilus Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. i. p. 8 (1850); Stringops habroptilus Van der Hoeven, Handb. Zool. ii. p. 466 (1856); Stringopsis habroptilus Schl. Mus. Pays-Bas, Psittaci, p. 107 (1864)


A complete synonymy taken from (Checklist Committee (OSNZ), 2022:194):

Strigops habroptilus G.R. Gray, 1845: Gen. Birds 2: 427 – Dusky Sound, Fiordland.; Strigopsis habroptilus (G.R. Gray); Bonaparte 1849, Consp. Gen. Avium 1: 8.; Strigops greyii G.R. Gray, 1862: Ibis 4: 230 – South Island.; Stringops (Strigops) habroptilus (G.R. Gray); Potts 1871, Trans. N.Z. Inst. 3: 90.; Stringops habroptilus G.R. Gray; Reichenow 1881, Journ. für Ornith. 29: 15.; Stringops Greyi G.R. Gray; Reichenow 1881, Journ. für Ornith. 29: 15. Unjustified emendation.; Strigops habroptilus habroptilus G.R. Gray; Mathews & Iredale 1913, Ibis 1 (10th series): 427.; Strigops habroptilus innominatus Mathews & Iredale, 1913: Ibis 1 (10th series): 427 – North Island.; Strigops habroptilus parsonsi Mathews & Iredale, 1913: Ibis 1 (10th series): 427 – north-west South Island.; Strigops habroptila G.R. Gray; Dickinson 2003, Complete Checklist Birds World: 181. Emendation.


Conservation Status

Extinct in the wild

Last record: 1976 (only males known)

Rediscovered in 1977 (population with females discovered)

All birds subsequently translocated to predator free islands where they are intensively managed and thus qualify as extinct in the wild

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered


Although it still existed when it was rediscovered, that population consisted only of 18 males. Hence, it was considered functionally extinct prior to its (functional) rediscovery.



North Island, South Island & Stewart Island (Rakiura), New Zealand


Biology & Ecology







Above: Stringops habroptilus. Plate 5. From the book A history of the birds of New Zealand., 1873, by Johannes Keulemans. Te Papa (RB001176/005a)



Original scientific description:

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Merton, Don V., Reed, Christine and Crouchley, Dave. (1999). Recovery strategies and techniques for three free-living, critically-endangered New Zealand birds : kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus), black stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) & takahe (Porphyrio mantelli). Proc. The Seventh World Conference on Breeding Endangered Species, Cincinnati, Ohio, 22-26 May 1999.

Miller, H. C., Lambert, D. M., Millar, C. D., Robertson, B. C., & Minot, E. O. (2003). Minisatellite DNA profiling detects lineages and parentage in the endangered kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) despite low microsatellite DNA variation. Conservation Genetics, 4(3), 265-274.

Millener, P.R. 1999. The history of the Chatham Islands’ bird fauna of the last 7000 years – a chronicle of change and extinction. Pp. 85–109. In: Olson, S.L. (Ed.). Avian paleontology at the close of the 20th Century. Proceedings of the 4th International meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Washington, D.C., 4–7 June 1996. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89: i–viii + 1–344.

Miskelly, Colin M., Forsdick, Natalie J., Gill, Brian J., Palma, Ricardo L., Rawlence, Nicolas J. and Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2022). Amendments to the 2010 Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand Occasional Publication No. 2. Wellington: Ornithological Society of New Zealand.

Miskelly, Colin M. and Powlesland, Ralph G. (2013). Conservation translocations of New Zealand birds, 1863-2012. Notornis 60: 3-28.

Moorehouse, R. 1985: Ecology of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) liberated on Little Barrier Island (Hauturu). Unpublished report, Department of Conservation.

Moorehouse, R. 1986: Report on kakapo booming activity on Little Barrier Island: January-April 1986. Unpublished report, Department of Conservation.

Moorhouse, R. J., & Powlesland, R. G. (1991). Aspects of the ecology of kakapo Strigops habroptilus liberated on Little Barrier Island (Hauturu), New Zealand. Biological Conservation, 56(3), 349-365.

Morris, Rod, and Smith, Hal. 1988. "Kakapo, the old night parrot". Pp. 134-157 in Wild south: Saving New Zealand's endangered birds. Century Hutchinson, Auckland. [Revised edition, 1995]

Morrison, P. (1961). Kakapo [photos only]. Notornis 9(4): 130-131.

Mudge, Caitlin, Gray, Lindsay J. and Austin, Jeremy J. (2021). Using mitochondrial DNA to identify the provenance of 19th century Kākāpō skins held in Australia’s oldest natural history collection, the Macleay. Emu.

Natural History New Zealand. 1998. To save the kakapo. Video. Natural History New Zealand, Dunedin.

Neill, E. (2008). Kakapo Recovery Plan – 2006–2016 New Zealand Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Newton, A. (1866). Notices on recent ornithological Publications. Ibis (2) 1(5) :113-115.

Newton. A. (1893-1896) -A dictionary of birds. A. and C. Black, London.

Oliver, W. R. B. (1922) -Little Barrier Island bird sanctuary. NZ Jour. Sci. and Tech. 4: 284-290.

Oliver, W. R. B. (1930). New Zealand Birds. Fine Arts, Wellington. viii + 1-541 pp.

Oliver, W. R. B. (1955). New Zealand Birds. Wellington: Reeds. 661 pp. 

Pain, Stephanie. 1990. "Last days of the old night bird". New Scientist 126(1721): 19-23.

Park, J. (1891). Takahe versus Kakapo. Trans. N.Z. Inst., 23, 112-119.

Paulin, C. D. (1973). Sub-fossil avian remains from two limestone caves in North Taranaki. Mauri Ora 1: 95-98.

Poole, A. L. (1951). Preliminary reports of the N.Z.-American Fiordland Expedition, N.Z.D.S.I.R. Bulletin 103. Govt. Printer, Wellington. [relevant citation?]

Powlesland, Ralph. (1988). Kakapo Search on Stewart Island. Department of Conservation.

Powlesland, Ralph. (1989). Kakapo recovery plan 1989-1994. Wellington, Department of Conservation.

Powlesland, R. and B. Lloyd, 1990. Progress report of the supplementary feeding of

kakapo on Little Barrier Island; September 1989 -May 1990. Science and Research Report, Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Powlesland, R. and B. Lloyd, 1992. Supplementary feeding of kakapo on Little Barrier Island, May 1990 -June 1991. In prep., Science and Research Internal Report, Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Powlesland, Ralph G., & Lloyd, B. D. (1994). Use of supplementary feeding to induce breeding in free-living kakapo Strigops habroptilus in New Zealand. Biological Conservation, 69(1), 97-106. [Abstract]

Powlesland, R. G., Lloyd, B. D., Best, H. A., & Merton, D. V. (1992). Breeding biology of the kakapo Strigops habroptilus on Stewart Island, New Zealand. Ibis 134(4): 361-373. [Abstract]

Powlesland, R. P., Merton, D. V., & Cockrem, J. F. (2006). A parrot apart: the natural history of the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), and the context of its conservation management. Notornis: 53(1): 3-26.

Powlesland, R. G., Roberts, A., Lloyd, B. D., & Merton, D. V. (1995). Number, fate, and distribution of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) found on Stewart Island, New Zealand, 1979–92. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 22(3): 239-248.

Pucheran, J. (1847). Note sur le Strigops habroptilus, G.R. Gray. Rev. Zool., 10(12): 385-389.

Raubenheimer, D., & Simpson, S. J. (2006). The challenge of supplementary feeding: can geometric analysis help save the kakapo?. Notornis, 53(1), 100.

Reichenow, A. (1881) - Conspectus psittacorum. Systematische Uebersicht aller bekannten Papageienarten. Jour. f. Orn. 29: 1-49. 

Reichenow, A. (1881-2). Conspectus Psittacorum Systematisch Uebersicht aller bekanntcn Papageienarten. J. f. Orn.. 29 (153-6) : 1-234. 

Reischek. A. (1884) -Notes on New Zealand ornithology. Trans. NZ Inst. 17: 187-198.

Reischek, A. (1887) -Recent explorations north of Chalky Sound . . . Trans. NZ Inst. 20: 441.

Robertson, B. C. (2006). The role of genetics in kakapo recovery. Notornis, 53(1), 173.

Robertson, B. C., Frauenfelder, N., Eason, D. K., Elliott, G., & Moorhouse, R. (2009). Thirty polymorphic microsatellite loci from the critically endangered kakapo (Strigops habroptilus). Molecular ecology resources, 9(2), 664-666.

Robertson, B. C., Millar, C. D., Minot, E. O., Merton, D. V., & Lambert, D. M. (2000). Short Communication: Sexing the Critically Endangered Kakapo Strigops habroptilus. Emu, 100(4), 336-339.

Robertson, B. C., Minot, E. O., & Lambert, D. M. (1999). Molecular sexing of individual kakapo, Strigops habroptilus Aves, from faeces. Molecular ecology, 8(8), 1349-1350. [Abstract]

Robertson, B. C., Minot, E. O., and Lambert, D. M. (2000). Microsatellite primers for the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) and their utility in other parrots. Conservation Genetics 1(1): 93-95.

Salvador, Rodrigo B. (2018). Douglas Adams and the world’s largest, fattest and least-able-to-fly parrot. Journal of Geek Studies 5(2): 41-50.

Salvadori, T. 1891: Cat. Birds Brit. Mus. xx :2. 599.

Savage, J. L. et al. (2021). Low hatching success in the critically endangered kākāpō is driven by early embryo mortality not infertility. Animal Conservation. doi:10.1111/acv.12746

Scott, Peter (ed.). (1965). Preliminary List of Rare Mammals and Birds, pp. 155-237. In: The Launching of a New Ark. First Report of the President and Trustees of the World Wildlife Fund. An International Foundation for saving the world's wildlife and wild places 1961-1964. London: Collins.

Seersholm, Frederik V. et al. (2018). Subsistence practices, past biodiversity, and anthropogenic impacts revealed by New Zealand-wide ancient DNA survey. PNAS. [Supplementary information]

Shand, Alexander. (1894). The Moriori people of the Chatham Islands: their traditions and history. J. Polynes. Soc., 3(1): 76-92. [assigns the meho(-)nui to the Kakapo on p. 80]

Shand, Alexander. (1911). The Moriori people of the Chatham Islands: Their history and traditions. Wellington, Polynesian Society of New Zealand.

Sibley, M. D. (1994). First hand‐rearing of Kakapo Strigops habroptilus: at the Auckland Zoological Park. International Zoo Yearbook, 33(1), 181-194.

Skinner, H. D. (1923). The Morioris of Chatham Islands. Mem. B.P. Bishop Mus., 9(1): 1-140. [p. 136 points out the large number of typographical errors contained in a letter written by H. H. Travers to his father from the Chatham Islands, dated 18 May, 1864, mentioning the former existence of the Kakapo in the Chatham Islands, but driven to extinction by the Polynesians; see Dawson, 1959:111]

St Paul, R. (1951) - Kakapo (in summarised classified notes). Notornis 4: 52.

Stidolph, R. H. D. (1935) -The kakapo. Evening Post, Wellington, 31 August.

Taylor, R. (1855) -Te ika a Maui . . . Wertheim and Macintosh. London.

Taylor, R. (1872). An account of the first discovery of moa remains. Transactions and proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 5: 97-101. [moa bones attributed to the tarepo (i.e. Kakapo) by Maoris in 1839]

Tipa, R. (1996). Kakapo in Maori lore. Notornis 53: 193-194.

Travers, H. H. (1866). On the destruction of the aborigines of Chatham Island. Trans. Ethnol. Soc. Lond.. 11.s. 4: 352-360. [reproduces a letter written by H. H. Travers to his father from the Chatham Islands, dated 18 May, 1864, mentioning the former existence of the Kakapo in the Chatham Islands, but driven to extinction by the Polynesians; see Dawson, 1959:111]

Travers, H. H. (1867). Notes on the Chatham Islands (lat. 40deg. 30min S., long 175deg. W.)" J. Linn. Soc. (Bot.), 9 (35): 135-141. [reproduces a letter written by H. H. Travers to his father from the Chatham Islands, dated 18 May, 1864, mentioning the former existence of the Kakapo in the Chatham Islands, but driven to extinction by the Polynesians; see Dawson, 1959:111]

Travers, W. T. L. (1873). On the birds of the Chatham Islands, by H. H. Travers, with introductory remarks on the avifauna and flora of the islands in their relation to New Zealand. Trans. N.Z. Inst. 5: 212-222.

Travers, W. T. L. (1883). Remarks on the distribution within the New Zealand Zoological Sub-region of the birds of the orders Accipitres, Passeres, Scansores, Gallinæ, Struthiones, and Grallæ. Trans. N.Z. Inst. 15: 178-187.

Trewick, S. (1996). The diet of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), takahe (Porphyrio mantelli) and pukeko (P. porphyrio melanotus) studied by faecal analysis. Notornis, 43, 79-112.

Trewick, Steven A. (1997). On the skewed sex ratio of the Kakapo Strigops habroptilus: sexual and natural selection in opposition? Ibis 139(4): 652-663.

Triggs, S. J., Powlesland, R. G., & Daugherty, C. H. (1989). Genetic variation and conservation of Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus: Psittaciformes). Conservation Biology, 3(1), 92-96. [Abstract]

Trinder, M. (1998). A comparison of day and night home-range size in the New Zealand kakapo Strigops habroptilus. Unpublished MSc thesis, University of Reading, UK.

TV New Zealand Enterprises. (1990). Kakapo: Night Parrot and Project Takahe, "Wild South" series, (48 min.).

Valente, L., Etienne, R. S., and Garcia-R, J. C. (2019). Deep macroevolutionary impact of humans on New Zealand’s unique avifauna. Curr. Biol. 29, 2563–2569. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.06.058

Vargas, Pablo. (2023). Exploring ‘endangered living fossils’ (ELFs) among monotypic genera of plants and animals of the world. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 11: 1100503.

Veitch, C.R. 1986. Kakapo - Little Barrier - Winter 1986. Unpublished report, Wildlife Service.

von Seth, Johanna. (2022). The use of museum specimens in conservation genomics. PhD dissertation, Stockholm University.

Waite, D. W., Deines, P., & Taylor, M. W. (2012). Gut microbiome of the critically endangered New Zealand parrot, the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus). PLoS One, 7(4), e35803.

Waite, D. W., Deines, P., & Taylor, M. W. (2013). Quantifying the impact of storage procedures for faecal bacteriotherapy in the critically endangered New Zealand parrot, the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus). Zoo biology, 32(6), 620-625.

Wallace, A. R. (1876). The Geographical Distribution of Animals. MacMillan, London I: xxiv 1-503 pp.

Walsh, J. (2002). Seasonal changes in home range size and habitat selection by kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) on Maud Island (Doctoral dissertation, Lincoln University).

Walsh, J., Wilson, K. J., & Elliott, G. P. (2006). Seasonal changes in home range size and habitat selection by kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) on Maud Island. Notornis 53(1): 143-149.

West, Annie G. (2022). The microbiome in threatened species conservation: implications for the conservation of kākāpō and takahē. PhD thesis, The University of Auckland.

West, Annie G. et al. (2022). Influence of management practice on the microbiota of a critically endangered species: a longitudinal study of kākāpō chick faeces and associated nest litter. Animal Microbiome 4: 55.

White, K. L., Eason, D. K., Jamieson, I. G., & Robertson, B. C. (2015a). Evidence of inbreeding depression in the critically endangered parrot, the kakapo. Animal Conservation, 18(4), 341-347.

White, D. J., Hall, R. J., Jakob-Hoff, R., Wang, J., Jackson, B., & Tompkins, D. M. (2015b). Exudative cloacitis in the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) potentially linked to Escherichia coli infection. New Zealand veterinary journal, 63(3), 167-170.

White, K. L. (2013). The role of inbreeding in the reproductive fitness of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) (Doctoral dissertation, University of Otago).

White, Taylor. (1897). On the Poua and other extinct birds of the Chathain Islands. Trans. N.Z. Inst., 29: 162-168. [rejects the assignation of the meho(-)nui to the Kakapo by (Shand,1894), suggests instead that it refers to what we today know as Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi]

Whitehead, J., Case, B., Wilson, K. J., & Molles, L. (2012). Breeding variation in female kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) on Codfish Island in a year of low food supply. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 64-74.

Williams, G. R. (1956). The kakapo (Strigops habroptilus Gray) – a review and reappraisal of a near extinct species. Notornis 7(2): 29-56. [Williams (1962) cites this publication as giving the last record of the now invalid subspecies S. h. innomminatus as 1930]

Williams, G. R. (1960a). The birds of the Cleddau River area near Milford Sound, Fiordland. Notornis 8(7): 185-188.

Williams, G. R. (1960b). Distribution of specimens of the Kakapo, Strigops habroptilus Gray, in some museums throughout the world. Rec. Dominion Mus. 3: 219-227.

Williams, G. R. (1962). Extinction and the land and freshwater-inhabiting birds of New Zealand. Notornis 10(1): 15-32.

Williams, H.W. 1957. A dictionary of the Maori language. Sixth edition. Wellington: R.E. Owen, Government Printer. xxvi + 504 pp.

Wood, Jamie R. (2006). Subfossil kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) remains from near Gibraltar Rock, Cromwell Gorge, Central Otago, New Zealand. Notornis 53(1): 191-197.

Worthy, Trevor H. (1993). Fossils of Honeycomb Hill. Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington. 56 pp.

Worthy, Trevor H. (1998). Quaternary fossil faunas of Otago, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 28(3): 421-521. [p. 463]

Worthy, Trevor H. (2000). Two late-Glacial avifaunas from eastern North Island - Te Aute and Wheturau Quarry. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30(1): 1-26.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Holdaway, Richard N. (2000). Terrestrial fossil vertebrate faunas from inland Hawke's Bay, North Island, New Zealand. Part 1. Records of the Canterbury Museum 14: 89-154.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Zhao, J. X. (2006). A late Pleistocene predator-accumulated avifauna from Kids Cave, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 389-408.

Yaldwin, J. C. (1956). A preliminary account of the sub-fossil avifauna of the Martinborough caves. Rec. Dominion Mus., Wellington 3: 1-7.


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