During this year in New Zealand, I learned a lot about various endangered birds (see: Most Melodious Wild Musick for more explanation). One of the most captivating of the endangered species is the kakapo (properly: kākāpō, or Strigops habroptilus). The kakapo is a large and lovely flightless green parrot. Because it’s flightless, and has a low reproductive rate, the kakapo is especially vulnerable to introduced predators. Predation forced kakapo populations to such a low number by the 1970s that researchers worried the large ground parrots had gone completely extinct. Luckily, a few remaining individuals were found, and they were able to instate an extensive breeding and conservation program. Today, there are about 150 living kakapo (all of whom are individually named). It’s a small number, but one that’s slowly growing.
Out of these 150, the most famous kakapo is undoubtedly Sirocco. When Sirocco was three weeks old, he caught a respiratory infection and had to be hand-reared by humans. As a result, he seems to think himself a human (or maybe he thinks humans are, in fact, parrots). This has led to some interesting situations in the life of this slightly muddled bird. In 2009, for example, Sirocco was filmed for a documentary hosted by Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine. During filming, Sirocco displayed the full extent of his species confusion by attempting to mate with filmmaker Carwardine’s head.
That move launched Sirocco into the public eye. He quickly became the kakapo “spokesbird”, and now has an important role in teaching people about the plight of the ‘po. Sirocco’s Facebook and Twitter profiles are booming with activity, and he also travels around New Zealand to meet with dignitaries and visit schools. He’s beloved.
And he was an inspiration to me, this year, when I realized that he and the other kakapo were the perfect material for a New Zealand-inspired Christmas carol. And so, before the holiday season is completely over, I present to you: Sirocco, the Endangered Kakapo. Performed by my (very forgiving) extended family, video-ed (terribly) by yours truly, and made to inspire New Zealand ecology appreciation for one and all this holiday season. Enjoy!
One last thing– I will be staying stateside for the immediate future, which means things will be quiet on this blog for a wee while. But I’m full of appreciation for the time I had in New Zealand. Thank you, Aotearoa, for an incredible year. Thank you, readers of this blog, for your interest and feedback– it truly means a lot. And here’s to a happy 2017, wherever we find ourselves on this eternally fascinating planet.
Until next time,
PS: This song contains two factual errors made for the sake of poetic sound. First: Sirocco actually attempted to mate with the head of Stephen Fry’s co-star, Mark Carwardine– unfortunately, the 3-syllable scan of “Stephen Fry” worked better for this lyricist. Second: Siroc technically lives in Maud Island, not in Auckland- though he travels the country extensively for the responsibilities of spokesbirdship.
The rest of the song is entirely factual, including the conversations between other concerned kakapo.