New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1984) 7: 71- 83

The Foods of Kakapo on Stewart Island as Determined from Their Feeding Sign

Research Article
H. A. Best  
  1. Wildlife Service, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, New Zealand

The diet and feeding methods of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) on Stewart Island, southern New Zealand, were studied by examining sign left by the birds. Most feeding sign was found on herbs, ferns, and shrubs, especially on new and developing growth such as leaves, bark, fruits and seeds, as well as the subterranean portions. The species on which most kakapo sign was found were Lycopodium ramulosum, L. fastigiatum, Schizaea fistulosa var. australis, Blechnum minus, B. procerum, Cyathodes juniperina, Dracophyllum longifolium, Olearia wlensoi, Thelymitra venosa, Oreobolus strictus, Gahnia procera and Carex appressa. Though all (but Oreobolus and Gahnia) were fed on frequently throughout the year, variations in the use of different parts of plants occurred both seasonally and annually. The nature of the feeding sign indicated that kakapo are versatile feeders with highly variable feeding patterns, and many foods are taken opportunistically. This flexible feeding pattern allows kakapo to utilise a broad spectrum of seasonal foods which may only be available for short periods or on intermittent years.