This morning a family of five kākā were squabbling outside my window. Boy they were loud. There didn’t seem to be a fight on. Or sex. Just pure joy, it seemed, at making a racket. When we came to this house almost fifty years ago kākā were never seen or heard. They are large, browny green native parrot, with a wonderful red flash under their wings. The bird sanctuary, Zelandia in the hills behind us nurtured them, and now they have spread all over Wellington to the delight – and sometimes exasperation – of us all. Exasperation because they will tear at the branches of certain trees (mostly exotics) for the sweet sap they love.
Once I saw the kākā’s small cousin – a green kākāriki in our totara tree. Only once. But hopefully that’s a start. They are the purest leaf-green with a red topknot. When the first settlers arrived here, Ahu Mairangi, the hill I live on, was covered in bush and full to bursting with kākāriki. Māori trapped them for food, though larger birds were preferred. Settlers found their raucous calls unnerving and the way they would swoop down in great flocks to feast on seed and young sprouts and befoul freshly hung washing infuriating. Now we rush for a camera if we spot just one.
Photographs of our suburb in the late nineteenth century show ugly treeless wastes with the few houses perching on the ridges. Now the suburb is leafy and filled with birds. So despite all the bad and sad news we have made a few steps in the right direction.