Kagu

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(Redirected from Rhynochetidae)
Kagu
Conservation status: Endangered
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Gruiformes
Family:Rhynochetidae
Genus:Rhynochetos
Species:R. jubatus
Binomial name
Rhynochetos jubatus
Verreaux & DesMurs, 1860

The Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) is a long-legged greyish bird found in the dense mountain forests of New Caledonia. It is almost flightless, and builds a ground nest of sticks, laying a single egg. It has proved vulnerable to introduced rats and cats, and is threatened with extinction. The remote habitat and rarity of this species mean that little is known of its habits.

Contents

Description

The Kagu is an ground living bird found in the forests and shrubland of New Caledonia. Its plumage is unusually bright for a bird of the forest floor; ash-grey and white coloured. Its feathers are powder-downs which help keep it dry and insulate it in New Caledonia's tropical climate. They possess a crest used for displaying to other members of the species. It is nearly flightless, using its wings for displays (its primary wing feathers are patterned), and for moving quickly through the forest. It can also use them to glide when fleeing danger. It possesses bright red legs and a similarly coloured bill, and has large forward pointing eyes which give it binocular vision, good for finding its prey in the leaf litter and seeing in the gloom of the forest. Kagus make a range of different sounds, most commonly dueting in the morning, each duet lasting about 15 minutes.

Habitat and Habits

Kagus are adaptable within New Caledonia and are able to live in a variety of habitats so long as sufficient food is available. They occupy territories of 20 hectares, which they defend as a pair. They are diurnal using their eyes to hunt and select prey items, feeding mainly on lizards, worms, snails, beetles and millipedes, and also taking cockroaches, bugs and spiders. They hunt by standing motionless for long periods of time, often on one leg, the other gently briushing the leaf litter to find prey. Once prey has been sighted, the Kagu will make a rapid 'run-strike' to catch it. Its diet varies greatly depending on the seasons, the dry season being the leanest time.

The Kagu has a low reproductive output, producing no more than one chick per year. They are monogamous,and generally mate for extended periods of time. One egg is laid in a nest in the ground, and incubated for around 35 days, the chick is raised and fledged in 14 weeks. Kagus reach sexual maturity after 2 years, and have lived for 31 years in captivity.

Threats and Conservation

The Kagu is listed as endangered (CITES I), and enjoys full protection in New Caledonia. It is threatened by the introduced cats, pigs and dogs. Its initial decline was caused by hunting for the pot, and by keeping as pets. They also suffer from habitat loss, caused by mining and forestry. The Kagu has been the subject of highly dedicated conservation efforts, and is receptive to ex-situ conservation, breeding well in Nouméa Zoo. It is also doing well in Rivière Bleue Park, which has a pest managment programme and has been the site of releases into the wild of the captive bred birds. Kagus are considered very important in New Caledonia, it is a high profile endemic emblem for the Territory. Its survival is considered important for the nation's economy and image.

Classification

The Kagu's affinities are uncertain too, although usually the Kagu is considered to be within the Gruiformes and was initially classed as a member of the family Ardeidae because of its powder-downs, and an affinity with the Ardeidae is suggested by the morphological characters of the Kagu. Another larger species of the family, Rhynochetos orarius has been described from the fossil record.

Reference

fr:Cagou

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