Kakapo (Strigops habroptila), the rare and endangered flightless parrots of New Zealand, breed only two or three times per decade.
After 11 kakapo chicks were born in 2011, no new mating happened in 2012 or 2013. But this month, the New Zealand Department of Conservation announced that six chicks have been born this season -- five on New Zealand's Codfish Island and one on Little Barrier Island. A seventh hatched but didn't make it.
The biologist in charge of the kakapo recovery program, Deidre Vercoe Scott, said all six chicks were doing well.
Male kakapos attract mates using a strange technique. Every two or three years, when they're in the mood, they climb to the top of local hills and suck in deep gulps of air, inflating like a balloon. The bird will then let out deep belches that can be heard more than three miles away.
The sixth chick marks the first time kakapos have successfully mated on Little Barrier Island in 15 years. The population was momentarily removed from the island in 1999, so that a species of rat preying on the bird could be eradicated. The birds were brought back to the island in 2012.
When conservationists heard that the kakapo mother Heather had hatched a check on Little Barrier Island, they became worried about cyclone-turned-tropical-storm Lusi bearing down on the island nation.
"Fortunately, Heather’s nest was in a relatively sheltered spot away from any creek that had the potential to flood," Scott said. "We also checked the site for loose branches and dug extra drainage around the site."
Scott said members of the recovery team would continue to monitor the chicks closely.
[New Zealand Department of Conservation]