Story: Large forest birds

North and South Island kōkako

North and South Island kōkako

As depicted here by the artist John Gerrard Keulemans, the North Island kōkako (front) has blue wattles at the base of its beak. The wattles of the South Island kōkako (rear) are orange. Both are sleek, blue-grey birds with a black face mask. South Island kōkako numbers dwindled through the 20th century. The only accepted sighting since the 1960s was in 2007, near Reefton. Tantalising reports of their song, feathers, and characteristic moss-grubbing have persisted – from Stewart Island and Fiordland, north to the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes areas. Some sceptics think that the songs may be from kākā or tūī, which often mimic the calls of other birds. Kōkako songs may have been remembered and repeated within a local population.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PUBL-0012-01
Hand-coloured lithograph by John Gerrard Keulemans

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Gerard Hutching, 'Large forest birds - Kōkako', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 July 2024)

Story by Gerard Hutching, published 24 Sep 2007, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2015, updated 1 Aug 2023