One of New Zealand's rarest parakeets is having a banner breeding season

July 18, 2019, 8:24 a.m.

New Zealand's orange-fronted parakeets, or kākāriki karaka, are small birds that live in the forest. Only about 7 to 8 inches (19-22 centimeters) long, these are the country's rarest parakeet with just 100 to 300 birds estimated left in the wild.

But there's been some great news this year for the long-tailed bird with the yellow crown and the orange nose band. The parakeet is having its best breeding season in decades, the New Zealand Department of Conservation reports.

This year, at least 150 chicks were born in the wild, potentially doubling the population.

Department of Conservation staff members have found 31 kākāriki karaka nests in the wild in Canterbury this season — which is more than three times the number found in recent years — and nesting season is expecting to continue for several months.

Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage said the breeding boom was due to a wealth of beech seeds, which are a popular part of the birds' diet.

"This budgie sized native bird, a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu, eats plants and insects, and during a mast year, seeds dominate their diet. This year's beech mast is looking like the biggest in more than 40 years," Sage said in a statement.

"There has been so much seed on the beech trees the birds just keep on breeding with some parakeet pairs onto their fifth clutch of eggs. When there's no beech mast they typically have just one or two clutches."

The parakeets, which were threatened due to habitat destruction and introduced predators, have been part of a recovery effort that includes captive breeding programs and predator control. At one point, they were thought to be extinct before being rediscovered in Canterbury in 1993, reports the Department of Conservation.

Want to see the little birds for yourself? Here's some recent trail camera footage of the parakeets in their nests: