It is known that kākāpō used to live from the far north of the North Island to the south of the South Island; from near sea-level to near the tops of mountains; from flat land to very steep land; from dry areas to wet areas; in cold areas and hot areas; in forests and in shrubland and tussock grasslands. This is known because sub-fossil remains have been found, along with discoveries in Maōri midden (kitchen waste-pile) sites.
If kākāpō used to be so widespread and adaptable, why can you not just go “down the road” and see a kākāpō, or have one living in your backyard?
These days, to think about habitat for kākāpō means thinking about offshore islands – protected areas of natural vegetation free from introduced mammals. A refuge, and hard to visit.
If there are any kākāpō left on the mainland of New Zealand now – which is highly unlikely – they will be in the remotest corners of wilderness; in a place like Fiordland National Park, where the last captures on the mainland occurred.
Kākāpō need large areas of natural vegetation that are free from introduced predators such as stoats, cats, rats and mice in order to survive and successfully reproduce. They rely on a wild variety of plants as food sources as well as shelter from the weather and for hollows and holes to nest and roost in.
Currently, the remaining kākāpō population live on three islands – Codfish Island (Whenua Hou), Little Barrier Island (Hauturu o Toi) and Anchor Island. In the past birds have been managed on a number of other islands around New Zealand, and it is possible that one or two of these islands may become management sites in the future.