Orokonui Wildlife

Help Count Kākā this Feb

Hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer time go towards caring for kākā at Orokonui. From keeping the sanctuary mammalian predator free, checking nest boxes, filling and cleaning feeders, banding and surveying, and educating people. It’s suffice to say these charismatic taoka keep us busy. But is all this mahi working? Are kākā numbers on the increase? We need your help to learn more about the population.

For the week of the 26th February to 3rd March we are asking anyone and everyone around Ōtepoti/Dunedin to report all kākā they see, every day this week to the kākā database. Whether you see it in your backyard, the sanctuary, or local park we want to know when, where and the bands(if possible) of every kākā spotted.

Why is this so important?

South island kākā are classed as threatened – nationally vulnerable. Meaning they are vulnerable to further decline if nothing is done. A small population of kākā were established at Orokonui, starting in 2008. Before this kākā were lost from this area for around 150 years. While this population is thought to be growing, surveying kākā can be tricky as they are highly mobile. By getting everyone involved for a week we will get a better understanding of how many kākā are in the population, and how far from the sanctuary they are being sighted. This information will help us at Orokonui manage their population better, but will also help guide predator control and habitat enhancement efforts outside the sanctuary.

What to do if you see or hear a kākā

Whenever you see or hear a kākā during the count you can report it straight away to the kākā database here. Or write down the details somewhere and report it later. Photos and videos can be really useful if you have a camera nearby. They can be especially useful for helping to read leg bands.

If you have any trouble reporting kākā, or identifying individuals send through any photos or videos to

How do I know if it’s a kākā?

Most of the time kākā are quite obvious but their can be times where they can be a bit more tricky. The easiest time to confuse kākā for other birds is in flight. You can see in the image below the characteristic red can be hard to make out against the light from above. Kākā have shorter wings and flap more than a kāhu/harrier, their wings don’t come to a sharp point like a kārearea/falcon, and their undersides do not appear pale like a kererū.

South island kākā from below. Oscar Thomas.

Another give away of a kākā in any situation are their calls, they are vocal and social birds. So listening out for their calls can be a great way to tell where they are, especially at dawn and dusk when they tend to be most vocal. You can listen to a variety of calls on the birds NZ website

If you want to confirm what you heard, or saw are kākā you can always send a photo, video, or audio recording through to

How to read leg bands?

To help us gain more knowledge and manage this population, most of the kākā are banded. Each banded kākā will have a series of bands that create a unique colour combination for that individual. To read the leg bands start on the left leg (from the kākā’s perspective) and read top to bottom, then the same on the right leg. Reading leg bands can be tricky but provides great information

I saw a kākā with no leg bands!

There are always a few kākā in the population without leg bands. They may not have been banded as chicks in the sanctuary because the nest was inaccessible, or they may have been born in a nest outside the sanctuary. Recording unbanded kākā is just as important as recording banded ones, just select the unbanded category when reporting the sighting.

I am not in Dunedin but I saw a kākā

Awesome! It is always special to see a kākā wherever you are in Aotearoa/NZ. However, this project is focused on the kākā found around Dunedin. You can still help scientists in other parts of the country by making an observation of your kākā sighting using iNaturalist or eBird.