Heather and Zephyr’s 40th hatch day

Department of Conservation —  24/03/2021

By Bronnie Jeynes – Ranger

This month we’re celebrating the two oldest known age kākāpō reaching their 40th hatch days!

Zephyr feeding chick Tiwai.
📷: Don Merton.

Heather and Zephyr both hatched on Rakiura during 1981, though we’re not sure of their exact hatch days.

Zephyr was found in Nora’s nest on the 17th of March 1981, at about a week old. The discovery of kākāpō nesting was incredibly exciting and Zephyr and her sibling Adler were closely watched until they fledged, when they both disappeared into the bush. Zephyr was found again 9 years later but Adler was never seen again.

Heather on the other hand was found as a juvenile in 1982. Kākāpō have pointy tips to their wing feathers prior to their first moult. These tips are much more rounded once they grow their second set of feathers and the team who first found Heather noted the pointed tips at the time not knowing what they signified.

Zephyr’s juvenile wing with pointy feathers.
📷: Don Merton.

At the time of Heather’s discovery, kākāpō were being quickly shifted off Rakiura to Hauturu-O-Toi as cats were decimating the population. We suspect this was the fate met by Adler, but luckily Zephyr survived to be shifted to Whenua Hou in 1990.

Both Heather and Zephyr have become successful mums, though Zephyr’s off spring are far more famous, including both Hoki (the first kākāpō to ever be hand reared) and the international superstar Sirocco.

These two girls have quite different personalities. Heather is not a mum to mess with on the nest! She’s very growly and protective of her babies, where as Zephyr as been known to literally climb right over the top of people when she’s returned to her nest and found people there checking on her chicks. However they can both be difficult to catch and were both very quick to get onto supplementary food.

At this stage we don’t know how long kākāpō live for, though there are a number of birds in the population who are definitely older than Heather and Zephyr (such as Zephyr’s parents Nora and Rangi). So happy 40th hatch day to these two, and we hope to celebrate many more!  

Rangers Brodie, Bryony and Sarah catch Zephyr on the 7th attempt.
📷: Brodie Philp.

For more on the Kākāpō Recovery Programme, check out: http://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/kakapo-recovery

3 responses to Heather and Zephyr’s 40th hatch day


    As Stephen Fry once said, “Long live the flightless parrot”. Best wishes from a colleague in Natural England (DOC’s UK equivalent).

    Janice Swanwick 24/03/2021 at 4:30 pm

    Wonderful and lovely to see the photographer’s name, the late great conservationist Don Merton.


      You guys are an inspiration – fantastic work nurturing our precious Kakapo