Kākāriki or yellow-crowned parakeets are small, bright green, noisy parrots that spend most of their time high in the forest canopy. Their characteristic chatter can be heard in the upper reaches of the park.
Kākāriki were once extremely common throughout New Zealand, and in the Nelson and Golden Bay area huge flocks were quite a pest in early fruit orchards. However their unfortunate habit of nesting in tree holes means they are extremely vulnerable to rats and stoats. Predators not only clean up the eggs or nestlings but are also likely to kill the adult female on the nest.
In Abel Tasman kākāriki are only ever heard in the high country (Evans Ridge/Wainui Valley/Harwoods Hole) where rats are less abundant and all predators have been reduced by past control operations. Without predator management there is no doubt this slow decline of kākāriki, from huge flocks in the early 1900s to one of the rarest birds in the park today, would shortly lead to a complete loss from the park.
To combat this, and enhance the remaining tiny population Project Janszoon and DOC have released captive raised birds into the upland area of the park where intensive predator control has taken place.
Wild adults have been caught from an island in the Marlborough Sounds and have become founders in a breeding programme. The first 12 birds were introduced to an aviary at Wainui Hut and kept there for a couple of weeks before being released in 2014. A further 10 were released from the aviary in March 2015. This 'soft' release is designed to reduce the chance of rapid dispersal out of the 'safe' habitat.
Yellow-crowned parakeets eat seeds, fruits, buds, flowers and invertebrates.
They are mostly summer breeders, but when food is abundant they can breed throughout the year and raise multiple broods. There are plans to release more captive bred kākāriki and it is hoped will breed prolifically.