The taxonomic status of the orange-fronted parakeet has long been a subject of debate. Research conducted by the Department of Conservation, in association with Victoria, Canterbury and Lincoln universities, has now shown it to be a separate species. The DNA research was supported with field observations, to determine whether interbreeding occurred between yellow-crowned and orange-fronted parakeets in the wild. This fieldwork revealed no mixed pairs, which indicates that they sustain separate gene pools.
Oliver says that "this little parakeet was first described by Souance in 1857 from an unknown locality. It was next found by Haast in the forests of the Oxford ranges in 1869 and a specimen was forwarded to Buller who, not recognising it as Souance's species, described it as new. Reischek said that he shot birds of this species on both the Hen and Little Barrier Islands in the North Island. In 1874 it was found near Dunedin. Other localities in the South Island were Takaka, Owen Junction, Mount Alexander, Oxford, Manapouri and Dusky Sound. Potts said it was fairly represented in the large flocks which invaded Canterbury in the summer of 1884-85. Haast said that this species and the yellow-fronted occur always together, but in some localities the first and in others the second are predomiant."
Orange-fronted parakeets feed on the ground as well as in the trees and it is thought that this makes them more vulnerable to predation than the yellow-crowned parakeets that feed higher up in the branches of trees. Only four nests of the orange-fronted parakeet have ever been found so there is little information about their breeding habitats. They nest high in the hollow trunks of trees. Breeding begins in summer and can continue into winter if there is plenty of beech seed. Eggs take 21-26 days to incubate. The chicks are fed at first by the female, and later by the male as well. They fledge from the nest when they are 40-50 days old.
Classified as ‘nationally critical’, the species has a high risk of extinction with only 100 — 200 birds in the wild. A new generation of orange-fronted parakeets has been successfully established on predator free Te Kakahu o Tamatea, Chalky Island, in Fiordland. Chalky Island was chosen over other predator-free islands because of its absence of red and yellow-crowned parakeets.
The calls of the Kakariki are not audibly different, but the orange–fronted tends to call much less often than the yellow–crowned. Kakarfiki are highly active, non–territorial birds, living in the beech forest canopy.
— Greytown, 2006
Other common names: —
Male, 28 cm., 80g., female, 25 cm.,70 g., The orange-fronted and yellow-crowned parakeets are virtually identical, except where the yellow–crowned has a crimson band across its forehead and crimson rump spots; the orange-fronted has an orange forehead band and orange rump spots.
Where to find: —
Orange–fronted parakeets are only found in three valleys in Canterbury; the Hurunui Valley in Lake Sumner, and the Hawdon and Poulter valleys in Arthur‘s Pass National Park. A new population has been recently established on Chalky Island in the Fiordland region.
— Bird cimema video —
Illustration description: —
Buller, Walter Lawry, Birds of New Zealand, 2nd ed., 1888.
Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.
Kakarikis (New Zealand Kakariki Web Site)
Page date & version: —
Saturday, 24 May 2014; ver2009v1