Mother Nature strikes again
The natural world is a pretty amazing place. The how’s and why’s of things often make little sense to us mere humans. Like what determines a successful breeding season from one year to the next. On the surface, there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to why kākāpō sometimes have more successful years than others. Turns out though, that there is a method to their madness and our friends at the Department of Conservation (DOC) have let us in on the secret.
For the kākāpō, it all lies in a fruit. The rimu fruit to be precise. When it’s a bumper rimu mast (technical speak for mass fruiting), it’s a strong indication that we are on for a decent breeding season. It’s important to note that this only happens every two to five years, so it’s a pretty big deal.
Like us, kākāpō also love a superfood. DOC is still doing research into what makes the rimu fruit so super but the signs are pointing to the presence of vitamin D which is key to making good strong eggs. Once the chicks hatch, the kākāpō mamas almost exclusively eat rimu fruit. This means that when the chicks leave the nest after 4-6 months, they’re all supped-up on fruit power to live their best independent life.
These birds know what’s up quite a bit before the eggs are laid too. The males start bulking up in advance because they need all the energy they can get for the long nights of booming that lie ahead. Now, that’s not what you think it is…booming is making specific, deep, loud noises to try and attract a mate. And they’ll be doing this for up to eight hours, every night for 3-4 months – talk about putting in the hard yards!
The count is on
While kākāpō have their instincts to rely on, the DOC workers have their work cut out for them. To get an idea of what the coming breeding season will look like, DOC go on a counting expedition each autumn. This project isn’t for the faint hearted either. The DOC workers climb up trees looking for fruit and use helicopters to reach the treetops, leaning out to collect over 120 samples. There’s some pretty clever data behind the analysis, but the long and short of it is, if more than 8% of the tips have fruit, then kakapo will likely breed the following year. The higher the percentage, the more female kākāpō will breed. Makes sense.
It all follows the seasons. DOC recount in the spring and the fruit ripens in the summer. It’s a pretty serious mission, but it’s worth it because it helps DOC be as prepared as they can to support the breeding season and kākāpō recovery. As a national partner, Meridian is stoked to be part of the whole thing and we’re very excited to see just what the rimu is up to this year – we’ve got our fingers crossed for an awesome kākāpō summer in 2022.