Is this kokako drunk or just playful?

Whatever the case, a video capturing a North Island kokako's colourful antics has been attracting thousands of views on YouTube.

First attempt: Fail! The kokako bird falls down for the first time. Photo: Wesley Webb/ YouTube
First attempt: Fail! The kokako bird falls down for the first time. Photo: Wesley Webb/ YouTube

It shows a kokako playing with a piece of bark - as it tries to latch on to it, the bird repeatedly falls down.

Massey University researchers Professor Dianne Brunton and PhD candidate Wesley Webb recently came across this amusing cat-like behaviour while researching bellbird song on Little Barrier Island.

Advertisement
Second attempt: You can do it . . .or not! Photo: Wesley Webb/ YouTube
Second attempt: You can do it . . .or not! Photo: Wesley Webb/ YouTube

Play behaviour is known from many types of birds, including kea, but this is the first time that the research team have seen this behaviour in the rare native species.

Why was the bird playing and what function did it serve?
While it's not clear, play has been linked to larger brain sizes in birds.

Third time lucky: Whoo hoo kokako finds its balance. Photo: Wesley Webb/ YouTube
Third time lucky: Whoo hoo kokako finds its balance. Photo: Wesley Webb/ YouTube

Playing around, the researchers say, may just be something that clever animals do.