7 facts about New Zealand Parrots and Parakeets

© Tomas Sobek
Fascinating Facts

Although often associated with the tropics and Australia, Aotearoa is home to a number of species of parrots and parakeets. Most of them endemic and endangered. Here are seven fascinating facts about them.


New Zealand has three native parrot species – the kākāpō (nationally critical), the kākā (recovering) and the kea (nationally endangered).  While the kea and kākā are from the same genus (Nestor), the kākāpō has no close relatives.


New Zealand has six native species of parakeets, or kākāriki. Yellow-crowned parakeet (declining), orange-fronted parakeet (nationally critical), red-crowned parakeet (relict), Forbes' parakeet (nationally endangered), Reischek's parakeet (naturally uncommon) and the Antipodes Island parakeet (naturally uncommon). All from the same genus (Cyanoramphus), the small birds can be differentiated by the colour of their crown or head.


New Zealand also has some Australian parakeet species that have become established or naturalised, although with restricted distribution. These include the sulphur-crested cockatoo, galah, and eastern rosella.


Kākāriki means small parrot in Māori, kākā being the general term for parrots as well as the name of a specific species. Kākāriki is also the Māori word for green, reflecting the bright green colour of the birds. 

yellow crowned kakariki
© Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre

Yellow-crowned kākāriki


There are a lot of things that make the kākāpō unique. Nocturnal (its name means night parrot) it is the heaviest and only flightless parrot in the world. Also noted for being long-lived, the booming mating call made by males and an ’owl-like’ face. Unfortunately, many of these unique features make them very vulnerable and despite intensive conservation efforts, there are less than 300 kākāpō alive today.


The kākāpō is not the only unusual parrot that calls New Zealand home. The mountain-dwelling kea are the only alpine parrot.  Also known for their innate curiosity, especially about human things. Kea are occasionally predatory, an uncommon behaviour also seen in the Antipodes Island parakeet.


Red- and yellow-crowned kākāriki are the only native bird species that can be held and bred in captivity although breeders require a permit from the Department of Conservation. Breeding programmes are helping to preserve kākāriki. Find out about the programme WWF-New Zealand has supported at Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.