Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery


Lynn: Animals have always been a big part of my life and that has also meant I love to read about animals almost as much I like being around them. There wasn’t any such thing as YA literature when I was a young teen so I turned to adult books. Probably my favorites were the books written by the naturalist, Gerald Durrell and I read them over and over again. It was in Durrell’s book about a visit to Australia and New Zealand that I first encountered the kakapo. Durrell recounted his sighting of one of these ground-dwelling parrots as well as his sadness because at the time of his book, it was thought that only a few birds remained. So when I learned about the new Scientist in the Field book titled Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot (Houghton 2010), I got REALLY excited! I got even more excited when I learned that the wonderful author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop had teamed up to do this book.

It was worth the wait. The kakapo was actually thought to be extinct, a victim of the rats, stoats and cats that arrived with settlers to its island habitat. Then the New Zealand Wildlife Service decided to mount a series of expeditions to search for any remaining birds and between 1974 and 1977 they discovered 18 surviving on remote islands – all male. In 1977 a population of 100 birds was discovered, including females. But the birds weren’t breeding and when they did the eggs were often infertile. A major effort is now taking place to help this amazing bird and Montgomery describes the visit she and Bishop made to the sanctuary and the colossal effort being made to save the kakapo.

The kakapo is the world’s heaviest parrot, weighing in at 9 pounds, with beautiful green feathers, and a charming bewhiskered face. They smell like sweet honey, are intensely inquisitive and can live to be over 100 years old. They are in desperate need of the dedicated scientific help that Montgomery describes so vividly. It is a remarkable story and Nic Bishop’s glorious pictures bring this enchanting creature right into the reader’s heart. As always, Montgomery does an outstanding job of describing the work of the dedicated scientists studying the Kakapo and trying to increase the pitifully few numbers of birds. I defy anyone to read this book and not want to immediately help with the effort.

Cindy:Thanks, Lynn. You didn’t warn me that this book would make me cry! The loss of some of the birds, especially the hatchlings, was heartbreaking. Knowing how threatened this species is makes the losses even harder to read about. Immediately after finishing the book I had to follow the link provided to the Kakapo Recovery website to check the current status of these unique birds. When Montgomery and Bishop left the island there were 87 kakapo. At the time of the printing of the book another chick had died but five new eggs had hatched, bringing the total up to 91. The website reports the very happy news that there are now 123 kakapo! Still a very threatened population, but moving in the right direction thanks to the important work being done by volunteers and conservation workers. You can donate to the efforts here.

We’ve blogged about other books in the Scientists in the Field series, but this is such a worthy series that it bears promoting again. What makes it so great? Interesting subjects, authors and photographers who go to the field to research and document the story, great writing, fabulous photography, and science career education that can’t be beat. Each time I read one I am left a little melancholy that I didn’t listen to my high school biology teacher to pursue science. Who knew what incredible jobs were out there? Teens who read this series will be better armed with vocational ammunition. And, even if they prefer to sit indoors and read about these adventures rather than carrying a 45-pound pack up steep muddy hills to refill parrot feeders, they’ll be richer for the experience.

Oh, and you can listen to the booming call of a kakapo here. It sounds more like a frog than a bird to me! I’ve made my donation, but I’m headed back to the website to nonfictionmonday1read the latest kakapo conservation news.

Nonfiction Monday is being hosted today by Simply Science. Check it out.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery"

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  1. slduke@prodigy.net' Shirley says:

    What a great review of this book. It sounds like something I’d love to read. I can’t imagine finding the birds in the first group and realizing they were all males. I’d read about the predators introduced in New Zealand this brings the story to life. I love Scientists in the Field series, too.

  2. wrappedinfoilblog@gmail.com' Roberta says:

    Oh, another book in the wonderful Scientists in the Field series. My son and I will be looking for this one, sounds like an awesome story.

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