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The world’s fattest and only flightless parrot is an adorable tubby lump whose memoirs read like a pamphlet on how to get eaten. Short of evolving a coating of herb butter and having a nest like a savoy fricassee with a little beetroot-relish quinelle egg, the delightful kakapo has apparently gone out of its way to become a somewhat easy meal. So easy a meal in fact that there are only a hundred left.

Kakapo live on a couple of tiny islands at the bottom of New Zealand. Of course New Zealand was one of the last countries to be discovered by man, and consequently it thought itself the luckiest archipelago around. In fact there were hardly any mammals at all, just a couple of bats. Bird life flourished here and evolved to fill all those little niches usually filled by mammals. Unperturbed by big predators they forwent the ability to fly, and waddled around the forest floor happily chomping on the nuts, berries and fruit that would usually be eaten by pigs, mice and deer. Chomping on quite a lot of it in the case of the chubby kakapo.

... there goes the neighbourhood...

Eventually Man arrived, he always turns up after a while, and he’s not the nicest of guests and almost certainly didn’t bring any wine. Instead he brought over horrid things that really weren’t to the kakapo’s liking. The kakapo was the third most common bird on New Zealand before the Maori arrived… not for long… being delicious is not the best adaptation that evolution has ever produced. The Maori and their pooches devoured them, not surprising as kakapo smell worse than a pub carpet on a Sunday morning and so were a tad easy find. What’s more their response to danger is to stand stock still, startled as it were, making them about as useful as the French in a fight. What made matters worse is that those horrible neighbours the Europeans arrived and brought pigs, goats, deer and horses that all loved to eat the same thing as the kakapo. Though they did bring wine… which was thoughtful. Things just weren’t meant to be for this roly-poly parrot.

Now many birds throughout history have evolved the deliciousness gene, and quite a few have been eaten off the planet: the dodo, the passenger pigeon, the great auk to name but a few. So here down at The Proceedings we only allow an entry if it displays an added soupcon of the strange. Thankfully the kakapo delivers in droves.

You see this rotund fellow has rather bizarre breeding behaviour. The kakapo will only breed certain years when a particular type of fruit abounds. If it does happen to be one of these years the kakapo males will waddle up to ridges where they will begin to fight, sometimes to the death, for the best spots.

Once a spot is secured the male will go and tidy up the saucer-shaped bowls cut from year upon year of rooting around by the males, and quite meticulous they are with them too. One way that researchers find out if a bowl is in use is by popping a few twigs in them, if it’s used overnight they’ll have been removed by the morning. Once in their immaculate bowls the kakapo make a booming noise to attract any females nearby to mate with, and they will continue to do so for about four months, losing half their body weight in the process. Not only that they are very very rampant, so in need of nuptials in fact that they’ve been observed mating with dead seabirds.

In fact it would probably be safe to say that the kakapo’s attempts at getting a filly into the sack are actually more efficient at bringing down the population numbers rather than adding to them.

Thankfully due to some rather brilliant research, and more than a dash of diligence, a group of learned types are helping to claw this fat parrot from the brink of extinction, from forty pairs there are now over a hundred in the wild.

To surmise; if you’re a tubby delicious meal, who you can smell a mile off, who’s not really concentrating as you’re so ready for rumpy-pumpy you’d have it away with a rotten seagull, and you are loud, and the new next door neighbours are hungry Polynesians and their pets, and you can’t fly away or actually make any kind of response to being attacked… things aren’t going to pan out too well.

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  3. Michael says

    I recently had the fortune to visit Aotearoa/NZ and was charmed by its unique smattering of cute but self-defeating flightless birds.

    Now it seems that the Kakapo in particularly has put a lot of effort into becoming the perfect meal. Perhaps we should let them achieve that aim, to the last kakapo crumb?

    There’s an awful lot of effort and dollars being poured into saving one flightless bird that may not be able to survive anyway, when there are many other charmingly-addled waddling birds that have a better chance of survival…

    Sorry Aotearoa conservationists, someone had to say it.

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