The Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) also called the owl parrot and the night parrot, is a large, nocturnal species of New Zealand parrot. It is the world's only flightless parrot, and is critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Kakapo is a large and stoat bird, with males measuring up to 24 inches and weighing 4 to 9 pounds. The plumage is mainly moss-green, with the chest and underbelly being more yellowish. There is weak brown-gray mottling across the feathers. The eyes are dark, the beak and feet horn-colored to gray. One of the most prominent characteristics is the dome-sharped head, much like that of an owl, which contains the sensory whisker-like feathers used in nocturnal foraging.
The Kakapo is mainly nocturnal, roosting under trees or on the ground during the day and foraging and roaming at night. While they cannot fly, Kakapos are excellent climbers and have strong legs. Younger birds will often play-fight.
The Kakapo was adapted to having very few predators (mainly other birds). This is why, unlike other birds, they have a strong scent and are flightless - which can help them escape birds, but not humans. At a time, even when hunted for food by natives, the Kakapo was the third most common bird in New Zealand. However, European settlers aggravated the problem by killing or capturing kakapos for museums, zoos, and the pet trade.
As early as the 1840's, introduced grazing species such as rabbits and deer outcompeted Kakapos for food, and their habitat was being destroyed for farmland, By the 1870's, it was apparent that Kakapo populations were declining. About a decade later, large numbers of weasels were released into New Zealand - apparently to control the rabbit problems. However, the mustelids mainly ignored the rabbits and instead attacked and killed hundreds of native birds.. especially the Kakapo.
In the 1950's, the New Zealand government made regular expiditions to search for Kakapos. However, they were nearly extinct in the wild by 1976. In 1989, a more organized Kakapo Recovery Plan was established, which runs to this day.
In the summer of 2008, the Kakapo population rose to over 100 individuals for the first time since monitoring started. As of March 2014, there are 126 known Kakapos.