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Karen Bayly

Author of fantasy, sci-fi, horror 

Kiwis, Kakapos and Steampunk

Although I'm Australian and we have a friendly rivalry with our Kiwi brothers and sisters, I can say wholeheartedly that I love New Zealand. I love the landscape, the people, the sauvignon blanc, the hokey pokey ice cream, and the Steampunk festival. But as a huge fan of birds, I adore their birdlife.

Kakapos

One particular bird - the kakapo - has been in the news lately. First though, a brief natural history of the kakapo. It is the world’s only flightless parrot as well as the world's heaviest parrot. It is nocturnal and herbivorous. Kakapo are visibly sexually dimorphic. Not only are males and females different sizes with females being smaller than males, females have a narrower and proportionally longer beak, more slender and pinkish grey legs and feet, and a proportionally longer tail.


Sirocco, a male Kakapo - see more at https://www.doc.govt.nz/sirocco

Kakapos are the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system. A lek refers to an area where males aggregate to display and impress females. Kakapo males dig bowls in the ground which they sit in to give their mating call. The call itself is a series of loud low frequency booms (that can carry for up to 5 kilometres with a good wind) followed by a higher pitched series of cheeps. In addition, the bowl the male sits in functions as an amplifier to help project the call. Females hear the call and travel to the lek where the male  performs a side-to-side rocking display while making clicking noises with his beak. If she thinks he’s a good sort, she will mate with him, then disappear to lay her eggs. Needless to say, males take no part in raising the chicks.

Hear a kakapo calling here... Kakapo video

This amazing bird is on the critically endangered list. It was almost wiped out during European colonisation because of the introduction of predators such as cats, rats, ferrets, and stoats. Now, most kakapo only exist on two predator-free islands where they are closely monitored.  The total known adult population is 147 living individuals… plus 70 or so! According to a recent report, the kakapos had an unusually long breeding season this year resulting in over 70 chicks hatching. Nature being nature, not all these chicks will make it to adulthood, but the overall population is likely to increase significantly.

Read more here and watch a video of the cute little fluff balls.

The other piece of news is also about a kakapo chick. This little critter, known by the name Espy 1B, had a large soft lump on its head. When examined, this lump was found to be the brain bulging out through an unfused area of its skull. As this kind of malformation is life-threatening, a team of veterinarians at Massey University decided to operate and made history by performing the first successful brain surgery on a bird. Espy1B is now doing fine.

Read more here and see a video of the operation (if you dare!).

It's F-word time!

Yes, a Festival is coming up soon. The Steampunk Festival NZ is on Thursday, May 30th - Sunday, June 2nd  2019. Now celebrating 10 years, this annual festival in Oamaru, New Zealand delivers fun and adventure for all those inclined toward a world of reimagined Victoriana, fantastic machines and fabulous fashions.

In a cruel twist of fate, my steampunk-inspired novel “Fortitude” won’t be published until after the Festival. Such is life. Meanwhile, here’s a snippet…

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