Keep an eye out for kākāpō

It is possible that a few kākāpō survive in southern Stewart Island and in remote parts of Fiordland.

Visitors to these areas are encouraged to look out for feeding sign, and to listen for the kākāpō’s distinguishing calls.

If there is conclusive evidence from the area that a kākāpō is present, a search will be initiated. The type of evidence we need might include a feather, dropping or feeding sign.


Where to look

Kākāpō inhabit a range of habitat types including forest, scrub and tussock country, at all altitudes, but sign is most likely to be found on hill tops or ridge-crests where booming bowls are generally sited or where birds have been feeding.


What to look for



The kākāpō is a large green parrot with a distinctive owl-like face and a waddling gait. They cannot fly but climb well.



Kākāpō feathers are pale yellow or moss green, irregularly barred with black, brown or yellow. When freshly shed, the feathers may have a distinctive musty smell.



Kākāpō droppings vary in colour and consistency but are typically green to dark brown, firm, and 25-50 mm in diameter – about the size of a large hen dropping.

They are nearly always made up of long intertwined spaghetti-like sections, with a partial white coating, and herby inoffensive smell when fresh.

Droppings are usually found in roosting places, beneath overhanging rocks, in small caves, in holes beneath tree roots, or under dense vegetation; and last for decades in dry places.



Kākāpō maintain well-defined tracks 30-60 cm wide within their display grounds by clipping off vegetation that is in the way.

If a track has bowl-shaped depressions at intervals along its length then it almost certainly has been made by kākāpō.

Tracks are most noticeable on the crests of ridges and spurs in scrub and tussock country near the forest edge and may persist in some places for years after kākāpō have gone. On the other hand, they may show little sign of use for long periods even when kākāpō are present.



Booming bowls are found in association with tracks and are 45-60cm in diameter and up to 10cm deep, and are normally in groups extending in a line up a ridge or dispersed over the top of a knoll.

They are always connected by tracks and may be in bush, scrub or open country.

If they are in use the area will become a scene of intense nocturnal activity during summer months and the bowls will show considerable signs of trampling and grubbing. There will also be signs of gnawing on nearby roots and branches.

Anyone camped in the vicinity will hear booming and other strange noises at night. Bowls are often formed against a boulder or at the base of a tree or shrub.


Feeding Sign

The most characteristic sign of kākāpō feeding results from their habit of thoroughly chewing fibrous material and discarding the fibre in compact crescent-shaped pellets or ‘chews’; whereas the ‘chews’ of the introduced possum are loose and irregular in shape.

Kākāpō often feed on the leaf bases of Dracophyllum (turpentine scrub) and flax leaving very obvious and distinctive sign, including ‘chews’.

Kākāpō also grub in the ground for the roots of Lycopodium (club moss) and orchids. The latter are generally dug out leaving a cup-sized depression in the ground.


Kākāpō have a wide range of calls, of which the most characteristic is a booming call produced during summer.

This is a series of repetitive, very low frequency, resonant booms produced in sequences of 20-50, at 1-2 second intervals, which may carry for up to 5 km. Booming usually occurs during the hours of darkness, but is occasionally heard during the day as well.

Listen to the kākāpō boom

Report a kākāpō record

To report a kākāpō record, please download the reporting card (PDF 32KB) and send it to either your local Department of Conservation office, or to:

Kākāpō Recovery Operations Manager
Department of Conservation
PO Box PO Box 743
Invercargill 9840
New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 211 2400

Please include any sign of kākāpō you may have collected or photos/videos you may have taken.


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