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Ghosts of Gondwana

The History of Life in New Zealand

George Gibbs

NZ is surrounded by lands with parrots - Australia, Indonesia, S Africa and S America - so no surprise that it has parrots too. But the NZ parrots, notably the kakapo, is completely different. Most parrots are big noisy birds with bright plumage, usually living in flocks, and of course, they fly.

The kakapo shows us what the world would be like if the mammals never developed, and birds ruled.

The kakapo's only enemies were other birds - a hawk and a harrier. So it developed drab plumage and foraged at night.

Most birds breed in pairs because need 2 to protect and exploit a feed area big enough to raise chicks. But the kakapo are surrounded by low-energy food - there is nothing worth defending. The females nest only when food is super-abundant, so they don't need the males to contribute.

So the male doesn't offer food supplies or baby-rearing help. Only thing he has is sex-appeal - strength of his call and his decorated lek.

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