An estimate of 1,000 birds of the Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus are known to be found in the wild, which is higher than 10 years ago, when about 700 Kagus were inventoried!
The flightless Kagu is endemic to New Caledonia and lives in humid and dry forests at low altitude. It can be found in scrub habitat on occasions. It feeds on worms, snails and small reptiles such as geckos. The Kagu is known to live at least 15 years in the wild. Each pair of Kagu can use a territory up to 30 hectares in rainforest. Outside the breeding season, the male and female live separately on the same territory. The Kagu builds a simple nest on the ground made of dry leaves.
The main threats to the Kagu are:
Introduced species such as Rusa deer Cervus timorensis, cat, dog, and rat
Habitat (forest) destruction for logging and mining activities
Diseases that could wipe out subpopulations
The number of Kagus has increased over the years because of the reduction of rat, dog, and cat predation. Increase public awareness on bird conservation and responsible dog ownership has also helped the recovery of the Kagu in some areas. However, the effort to save the Kagu needs to be intensified especially in places where important subpopulations are known and suffered very low numbers (less than 5 birds). Effort to control deer populations should be an important part of the overall conservation program.
The endangered Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus
© Pierre Fidenci
The Kagu is endemic to New Caledonia.
Wild Kagu from central New Caledonia. © Pierre Fidenci