The Kagu is a highly unusual, almost flightless bird, which due to its startling ash-white plumage is known locally as the ‘ghost of the forest’.
The only representative of an entire taxonomic family, the Kagu resembles something between a small heron and a rail. It only shares its taxonomic order with one other species, which is also the only representative of its family, the sunbittern. The Kagu has a large crest, long legs, and a peculiar ‘bark’, which can be heard over a mile away. They are highly territorial, engaging in sometimes fierce confrontations accompanied by shrill screams. This species is endemic to Grand Terre, the largest island of New Caledonia and has been adopted as the national emblem. The Kagu experienced a decline in numbers during the 1900s primarily due to predation by invasive species. Following predation by dogs and cats, egg loss from pigs and rats, and habitat loss the Kagu is now listed as Endangered.
- Order: Eurypygiformes
- Family: Rhynochetidae
- Population: < 2000
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 55 cm
- Weight: 700-1100g
This species is endemic to the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, where it is found on Grand Terre, the largest of the islands and the only mountainous one.
Habitat and Ecology
This species is a practically flightless, ground-dwelling bird. They feed mostly on worms, snails, millipedes, insects and small lizards, which they finds picking through the leaf litter. The Kagu occurs in a range of forest habitats, typically those that are dense and humid, although drier forests at low altitude are occupied within the centre of the island. During the wet season this species occasionally extends its range into closed-canopy scrub.