New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: Threatened–Nationally Critical
Found in: Three alpine beech forest valleys in Canterbury: the Hawdon, Poulter and Hurunui
Food: Seeds, flowers, buds and invertebrates
About the Bird
Orange-fronted parakeets, or kākāriki karaka, are small forest-dwelling birds. It’s our rarest parakeet with just 100-300 birds estimated left in the wild.
Reports from the 1800s show that orange-fronted parakeets were once found throughout New Zealand. However, their distribution has reduced dramatically over the last century and the orange-fronted parakeet is now our rarest parakeet and forest bird in New Zealand.
The remaining populations are all within a 30 km radius in beech forests of upland valleys within Arthur’s Pass National Park and Lake Sumner Forest Park in Canterbury, South Island. The easiest place to see them, although still difficult, is in the Hawdon Valley in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Although kākāriki karaka are now confined to these few valleys, historic records suggest that in the later years of the 1800s, when beech seed was bountiful during mast years, the parakeets would have a breeding boom and disperse onto the Canterbury Plains.
Did you know?
The orange-fronted kākāriki can breed for 18 months straight if food is plentiful!
Introduced predators and habitat destruction are the main reasons for decline. Predators like stoats and rats are excellent hunters both on the ground and in trees and prey on parakeets as they nest and roost in tree holes. Eggs and nestlings are also preyed on by possums, and cats love catching unsuspecting fledgelings.
Orange-fronted parakeets are especially at risk from rat and stoat plagues caused by beech forest seeding or masts. We lost 85% of one valley population due to a single rat plague in 2001.
Vast areas of native forest have been felled or burnt off by humans, decreasing the area available for parakeets. Possums, deer and stock add to the problem by browsing on plants and changing the forest structure.
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