A star attraction at the wildlife centre, Kahurangi the North Island kokako recently celebrated her 11th birthday, complete with pea birthday cake and photos of her big day on Facebook.

Visitor experience supervisor Laura Saba said Kahurangi had received some special treatment on her birthday.

"We certainly made a big fuss of her. One of her favourite things is peas so we made her a cake of a stack of ground-up peas, which she enjoyed."

As kokako can live to 40, at 11, Kahurangi is still in her prime.


Kahurangi was raised in Hamilton Zoo after being abandoned as a chick.

She was brought to Pukaha to be a part of its aviary breeding programme but was not keen on breeding as she had "imprinted", meaning she believed she was a person, Ms Saba said.

Instead, she became a "a key member of the advocacy team", she said.

"Effectively she thinks she's a person so why on earth would she breed with a kokako?

"She's pretty special around here... she really thinks she's a person more than a bird."

Kokako are known for their distinctive song, and Kahurangi can say "kokako", wolf whistle and even imitate staff radios.

Staff play her a kokako song from a musical card, but she has only learned to imitate the first three notes.

The only kokako in an aviary in the country, Kahurangi likes to rule the roost and be the centre of attention.

"She really likes to be the star of the show," Ms Saba said.

Staff are convinced she was raised by a man with glasses, as she always takes a "big shine" to men in glasses.

While there are about 40 to 50 kokako at Mt Bruce, there are only 1500 left in the North Island, and they are classed as "at risk" by the Department of Conservation.

"For a tramper to see a kokako out in the wild is like some kind of mecca -- it's something that you really want to do."

Declared extinct by DoC in 2008, the South Island kokako, which has an orange wattle, was moved from a conservation status of extinct to "data deficient" in 2013 after the acceptance of a sighting on the West Coast of the South Island.

The star of a daily visitor talk at the centre, Kahurangi will hop on to a branch near the front of the aviary to entertain her fans.

She hates to see her audience leave, Ms Saba said.

"You can see how much she loves people... as soon as people start leaving she pulls out the tricks. We are super-lucky that she ended up here."