Ancient kaka ‘cousin’ found in the Chatham Islands

New Zealand officially has a new species of parrot, but unfortunately it has already been extinct for several hundred years.

Credit: Landcare Research
Credit: Landcare Research

A study, led by Landcare Research, analysed fossil parrot bones from the Chatham Islands and confirmed that they represent a distinct species that is unique to the island group but closely related to New Zealand’s kaka.

Scientists first collected large parrot bones from the Chatham Islands in the late 19th Century but there has been confusion about which species these bones represented, with suggestions they may have been from kea, kaka and even kakapo.  The research team have finally confirmed that the species was closest to the kaka and have now officially named the extinct parrot Nestor chathamensis in the latest issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Being large and terrestrial meant the Chatham Islands parrot was probably easy to hunt and, as was the case for similar animals on most islands around the world, it likely became extinct soon after the first human settlers arrived.

The study has been covered in New Zealand media:

Newstalk ZB: New extinct parrot species confirmed
Stuff: New species of kaka discovered – a bit late
SBS: NZ finds new species of ‘ex-parrot’