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Granddad celebrates 21st birthday at Mount Bruce

19 December 2008

Granddad celebrating 21st birthday at Pukaha Mount Bruce

Birthday boy Koro. Photo: Raelene Berry/Department of Conservation.


There’ll be extra reason for celebration at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in the northern Wairarapa on New Years Day, with a special someone turning 21

The birthday boy, named Koro, has plenty to reflect upon on reaching this important milestone in life. His exploits, which include taking on four wives, and producing 31 offspring who have made him a granddad many times over, would raise more than a few eyebrows – if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s a kaka – a New Zealand native parrot. And his sexual antics have been actively encouraged by his Department of Conservation minders at Pukaha Mount Bruce.

Koro’s complicated personal life is the stuff of soap operas. He spent his first 11 years in captivity at Auckland Zoo and Fielding’s Kowhai Park, showing no interest in breeding. He quickly made up for lost time when he was released into the Pukaha Mount Bruce forest in 1999. Encouraged by a group of three kaka released at the same time, he settled in well and formed a strong bond with a cutie called Cleo. She was equally smitten but hedged her bets, also paying close attention to the advances of Bruce (who had been Koro’s cage mate in captivity).

Cleo soon laid a clutch of eggs and her two suitors job-shared the task of feeding her throughout incubation and after the chicks hatched. With two dads and mum to source food for them, the chicks grew rapidly. Just before they fledged Cleo laid a second clutch of eggs, with to-the-door food service again supplied by Koro and Bruce.

The three parents managed to recruit a young female kaka, Bailey, as a fledgling-sitter for their still-dependent first born while they concentrated on raising their second clutch of chicks. By the next breeding season Bruce had fallen out of favour and Koro and Cleo settled into a more conventional relationship, producing another clutch of chicks. Tragedy struck soon after the chicks fledged with Cleo killed by a mustelid. Koro became a solo dad taking on all the responsibility of looking after the fledglings. Over winter he paired up with Bailey the fledgling-sitter and they produced chicks the following season. Alas, tragedy struck again when Bailey went missing just before the start of the next breeding season.

Not easily deterred from his mission to populate the Pukaha Mount Bruce forest with many offspring in his likeness, Koro paired with two females, Tima and Anzac, which he set up in neighbouring nest boxes just a short flight from each other. While dividing his time between their first two clutches of chicks, Koro decided he still wasn’t busy enough, and produced a second clutch of chicks with Tima.

Whether from exhaustion, or finally seeing the error of his ways, Koro eventually opted for monogamy with Tima. The pair produced two clutches of chicks during the 2004/05 season and settled thereafter into a comfortable pattern of domestic bliss, producing just one clutch of chicks a year until 2007/08 and regularly becoming the first pair to start breeding each spring. This year has been no exception with Tima laying her first clutch of eggs from 4 September, the earliest any wild kaka at Pukaha Mount Bruce has started nesting. Three chicks from this first clutch fledged in late November and Koro and Tima are now tending the chicks in Tima’s second nest which hatched on 8 December.

As well as Tima and Koro’s chicks the breeding season is also well underway for other kaka pairs at Pukaha Mount Bruce, with six other clutches of chicks in nest boxes.

This includes Delta and Jericho’s bumper crop of six chicks which is the largest clutch of kaka chicks that have hatched in the wild at Pukaha Mount Bruce (clutches of three to four chicks are more usual). Incidentally, Koro is a granddad to these chicks as Jericho is one of his offspring. They may fledge in time to join Koro for his birthday celebrations.

So, what attributes have helped Koro to reach this milestone age?

Certainly his rather large beak has probably made him quite a hit with the kaka ladies as well as allowing him to snaffle two or three cubes of cheese at a time from the supplementary feed stations, meaning he probably gets more than his fair share of treats.

Koro is the Maori term of address for an elderly man or grandfather, and the word implies wisdom and knowledge amassed over a lifetime. While it is not known for certain how long wild kaka can live for, reaching 21 years old is an achievement worthy of recognition, so Happy 21st birthday Koro, and may you celebrate many more birthdays at Pukaha Mount Bruce in the future. ENDS

Caption: Find out more about Pukaha Mount Bruce on the DOC website:


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