Kaka face new human threat

WHO'S A SQUAWKY BOY THEN? Kaka around Zealandia have a healthy squawk but it is their powerful beak that is making them unpopular with some residents.
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WHO'S A SQUAWKY BOY THEN? Kaka around Zealandia have a healthy squawk but it is their powerful beak that is making them unpopular with some residents.

Saved from the brink of extinction in Wellington, kaka could face a new threat from humans, with one city dweller threatening to kill them.

Zealandia conservation manager Raewyn Empson said a small number of people living near the Karori sanctuary had called with complaints about the rare parrots eating plums from their trees. One had called threatening to kill the endangered bird, which Ms Empson said was "very unwise", given that they were strictly protected.

However, most who called to report kaka sightings were thrilled to see them. Ms Empson said Wellington was the only city with a breeding population. "All indications are that the kaka are here to stay."

The birds tended to gather at dawn and squawk noisily, but Ms Empson said their song had not generated complaints – a far cry from 2008, when the sanctuary said people were ringing to complain about noisy tui, after an explosion in their numbers.

At Wellington's Botanic Gardens, manager David Sole said kaka were stripping the bark of some exotic trees to get at insects or sap. The birds, which had particularly strong beaks, had damaged two birch trees, which might not survive.

Conifers had also been damaged, but Mr Sole said the damage was a small price to pay for seeing more kaka in the park. "They're getting to be part of the activities."

Ms Empson said that, although most Wellingtonians realised the "enormous privilege" of seeing more kaka in the city, that could also cause problems.

Some had started feeding kaka, but it was important not to lay out food on a deck or lawn for them regularly. The birds would return for food each day, but cats would do the same – and would kill them.

It was also important not to hand-feed kaka, not only to give them the best chance of survival in the wild, but because they could become a nuisance or dangerous once the feeding stopped.

Kaka particularly liked sugar and salt, but should not be given bread, cake, rice, chocolate or leftovers, because they could kill their delicate digestive systems, she said. It was best to leave them to find grubs, nectar, fruit and seeds.

The Dominion Post