Photo courtesy of David Cook
This charismatic bird has a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders, featuring on the $50 note as well as being crowned Forest & Bird’s 2016 Bird of the Year. Its crystal clear song carries far and wide across the forest attracting bird watchers from all over the world. Once common in forests across the country, kōkako are now limited to small tracts of forests and are closely monitored with a mere 1400 pairs surviving. Introduced predators have caused the continued decline of kōkako across New Zealand. In particular, female kōkako have a prolonged brooding period of 50 days on the nest, which makes them especially vulnerable to predators. For this reason, New Zealand now has a predominantly male population with low reproductive rates.
Species: North Island kōkako/ blue-wattled crow / Callaeas cinereal wilsoni
Status: At Risk
Location: Select forest ranges including Waitakere Ranges, Hunua Ranges, Tiritiri Matangi Island, Hauturu-o-toi / Little Barrier Island, Pureora Forest Park
Threats: Predation, habitat loss
Our work: Predator control, population monitoring, habitat enhancement, education
Taking action to conserve Kōkako
The greatest threat to kōkako is predation by introduced mammal predators, particularly ship rats and possums. Conservation Volunteers New Zealand runs community pest control workshops across the country helping community groups and individuals to control rats, stoats and possums in bushland and their own backyards. Pest control prior to the kōkako breeding season has seen the greatest increase in kōkako numbers and management techniques are continuing to improve.
Community involvement has been identified as important for kōkako survival. Volunteers have been involved in survey and monitoring work and there have been several major conservation campaigns to save kōkako habitats. Around half of existing kōkako sites are largely managed by the community.
Description and Distribution
The North Island kōkako is found mainly in tall diverse native forest, usually with a canopy of tawa or taraire and with emergent podocarps or kauri. Several populations within a short journey of Auckland’s CBD are closely monitored and supported including the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges and Tiritiri Matangi Island. It is assumed that the population of South Island kōkako are already extinct.
The kōkako is a dark bluish-grey bird with a long tail and short wings. They have a pair of brightly coloured, fleshy blue “wattles” extending from either side of their mouth. Their call is known to have exceptional clarity of pitch and kōkako are often found leaping and running rather than flying through the forest.
Help Save the Kōkako
Saving kōkako is urgent, important and costly. You can volunteer to assist in pest control projects or donate to support our work with kōkako. Together we can ensure that these taonga (treasures) have a Wild Future.
Would you like to give the kōkako a Wild Future? You can do so by donating through our secure online system.
By volunteering on one of our field projects, you can make a practical contribution and help give the kōkako a Wild Future.
View kōkako on the Department of Conservation website: