Sirocco the kakapo is missing

March 20, 2017 • 2:00 pm

The big news in New Zealand is that Sirocco, the most famous kakapo (Strigops habroptilus, the world’s only flightless parrot, a bird endemic to this country) has gone missing; or rather, his radio band slipped off his leg. But no worries—this has happened before. It’s his 20th birthday, though, and if they don’t find him he’ll miss his party!

Sirocco is famous for being the star of one of the best YouTube animal videos: “Shagged by a rare parrot,” in which Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine visited New Zealand to see kakapos, and Sirocco came out of the forest to indulge in a little hanky-panky with Carwardine’s head.  Ten to one you’ve seen this video before, but it’s worth revisiting (it’s from the BBC Two “Last chance to see” series about vanishing animals).

These adorable parrots are almost all confined to an island to protect them from predators; here’s another picture of Sirocco. Isn’t he cute??

h/t: Robert N.

25 thoughts on “Sirocco the kakapo is missing

  1. “confined” to an island?
    I thought that the case was closer to “all the ones on the mainland have been eaten by (rats, cats, weasels, stoats and other introduced animals)”. The only survivors being on small offshore islands.
    Is this a good time to mention that NZ are at the cutting edge of developing techniques to annihilate introduced animals though a combination of techniques. And wait for the Kiwis to throw in some interesting links, because I think I got the factoid from an ink-on-paper magazine which went into the recycling several weeks ago.

    1. The worst, I was told, is the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), introduced from Australia in an attempt to establish a fur industry.

      1. It’s now a cat-food industry. I used to feed my cat a low-allergen diet of “New Zealand brushtail”.

          1. For a very good reason, aside from the fact that they’re a pest so some drivers may be less motivated to avoid them. They’re everywhere on back roads at night.

            Hedgehogs are easy to avoid, they move slowly or curl up and stop. Rabbits tend to run off the road. But possums just run erratically along the road, I make a token effort to avoid them but I am not going to slide off into the ditch on a loose gravel corner trying to avoid a possum that just swerved in front of me.

            Sheep are, if anything, even more annoying but they’re bigger so one tends to try slightly more to avoid them.

            Mynah birds, on the other hand, I always try to hit, just for amusement, in the certain knowledge that they will just take three or four steps at the last minute to evade my car. I’ve never managed to hit one yet.


            1. By “Mynah birds” do you mean magpies, the black-and-white corvids somewhat smaller than crows? They look remarkably similar to our native magpies, and behave about the same, but have a far more beautiful call.

              The second-most frequent road kill I saw, sadly, were harriers.

              1. No, not magpies at all. I think we have some magpies here, but not a lot.

                Indian mynahs. They’re all over the place. They probably got here on a ship.

                The size of blackbirds, and very cheeky.


            2. You’ve reminded me that when visiting NZ in 2000, I was surprised to find that some minor road were unsealed, something you don’t find in the UK. Is that still the case?

              1. Oh yes, though far more in South Island than North Island.

                But tarseal in UK is far superior to most of the seal here, because in UK they roll the chips in to give a smooth surface. Here, generally, they just slosh tar all over the road then spread chips all over it which makes for a rough noisy surface.

                But I like loose gravel, much more interesting to drive on, and it feels more rural and remote.


      2. The fur is good if you need to keep warm. It is customary to spin it with merino wool and make socks and gloves for cold weather. I think the possum fibres are hollow, and hence more insulating for weight,

    2. I seem to remember seeing a bit of news involving poisons laid out to kill predators with warnings posted to keep dogs away. Must have been a YouTube video.

      1. Yes, 1080 poison.

        In the more rugged bush-clad areas they drop it from helicopters – only economic way to spread it. It’s formulated to appeal only to predators (this also includes dogs and, sadly, cats).


      2. Surely warnings posted to keep dog-owners away?
        But they’re more sophisticated than that. Traps designed for the specific animal ; poisons laid in baits that appeal to the specific animal/ group of animals. Far more sophisticated – and more likely to be successful – than that sort of YouTube parody (which is probably some one-man effort).
        A snippet that I remember (possibly mis-remember) from the article is that for the last several decades the NZ conservation groups have increased their ability to eradicate invasive species by a land area of about tenfold per decade, bringing the prospect of a rat/ cat/ stoat- free NZ within the next 20 years.
        They sounded optimistic, but dead serious. With the emphasis on the “dead”.

        1. Yes, that is correct about sophisticated traps etc in urban areas or areas close to towns (like the Waitakeres near Auckland, for example), or on some islands. I’ve often seen the traps when out walking.

          But in areas like the West Coast where possums are attacking huge areas of of native forest (‘bush’) in rugged country it’s just not feasible to adopt that approach so they have to resort to just dropping 1080 from helicopters in designated areas.


          1. I saw 1080 warnings all over the place. I also saw “Ban 1080” signs along the road. It seems to be a contentious issue.

            1. It is. I think some of the objectors sound a bit like anti-vaxxers or anti-fluoridationists, frankly.

              And they should certainly be required to state what they would propose as a practical alternative.


    1. Surely, if such a video existed, this would be a very different blog on which it was posted at least once a day.

      This blog would be WPIS. When Philomena Interviewed Sirocco.

  2. I have not seen this video before, it’s hilarious. That’s a very cute bird indeed, with a permanent look of surprise on its face. 🙂

    1. O, interestingly, Ms Markova, of birds ? the darlingest in footsie – colors actually ! As from just a couple of Galápagan cuties these couple of boobies’ beauties in blue and red thereof !


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