Kakapo are back in the North Island for the first time in a decade, after seven of the rare birds were released on Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf yesterday.

The Department of Conservation moved the flightless and critically endangered native parrots from Codfish and Anchor Islands in Southland.

The department's Southland kakapo programme manager, Deidre Vercoe Scott, said the four female and four male birds were taken by helicopter to Invercargill, where they boarded a commercial flight to Auckland.

One of the female birds was sent to Auckland Zoo after it became ill.


The final part of their journey was made by helicopter. "We released seven birds and everything went as planned. They seemed happy to be released. Some lunged out, others crept out and then sprinted," she said.

Conservationists hoped the birds, who were all proven breeders, could feed their chicks without outside help.

"It's really important for the future of the programme that we have [alternative options] for breeding sites," said Vercoe Scott.

The kakapo will stay on the island for between six and 10 years, when a decision will be made on whether to develop a full-time breeding colony.