I think about the kakapo almost daily. I can’t fucking stand the thing, but its squishy green body and black eyes haunt my dreams, my dreams of getting older and wondering what life will be like for me, me, a kakapo, a flightless bird sat squat inside the face of a cliff, calling, calling, calling.
The male kakapo attracts a mate by walking miles away from a kakapo population centre to a precipice, high and jagged, with a nice view. He builds a nest, something with attractive features like an ensuite or some bits of blue plastic. He then calls for the far away female, with a loud, deeply unappealing ‘BOOM’ sound that echoes so furiously throughout the cavernous surrounds, he becomes near impossible to locate.
Female kakapos are only up for it once every five years, after they’ve gorged themselves on their favourite berry from the slow and rare Rimu tree. They waddle through the night to reach these allegedly stylish yet affordable nests, but often find themselves hopelessly lost in a maze of jagged rocks for days, circling abandoned nests, unable to figure out where the hell that sound is coming from.
The bird makes me sick. The way it climbs and leaps off trees in a panic as if it might just fly if only it flapped its useless wings vigorously enough. The way it strips away bark with its industrial strength beak to gain any modicum of sustenance because the only fruit it likes is almost extinct and of course it can’t just eat seeds or bugs like a normal fucking parrot. The way it lives for 90 goddamn years and spends most of that time masturbating furiously with anything that so much as resembles the round, bulbous body of a female—like a boulder, or a person’s head.
If my mind were a house, the kakapo would be sat squat in the corner of my bedroom, glaring. The first time I read about this ‘extremely fat bird’ was in Douglas Adams’ and Mark Carwardine’s book on endangered species, Last Chance to See. The yangtze dolphin was the more tragic character of the book, blinded by evolution to navigate by sonar, and then blinded again by the noise pollution of human industry—butting heads with the hulls of boats, dead by propeller blade.
But the kakapo stood out for its indecent relateability. Like the kakapo I have in me the impetus to be alone at the moment I desire connection. I find myself wanting at the most inconvenient precipices of my life. I waddle, too, toward many empty nests.
The kakapo is lonely. Or so I tell myself. Year after year the male builds his nest, for nothing. He often watches a female waddle by, searching for a different mate. Habitual, maybe. Desperate, definitely. But in the nineties there were only 50 kakapos left in the New Zealand wilderness, and now the population has tripled. Scientists have figured out that if you feed the female enough Rimu berry, she’ll be up for it, pretty much whenever.
They say that the kakapo can no longer survive in the human world—a world of industry, of technology, of cats—without human intervention. When the Rimu were plentiful, when the apex predator in New Zealand was the lesser short-tailed bat, the incompetence of a horny kakapo was a necessary form of birth control, keeping populations down.
I think about the kakapo too often. During mating season, the male will sit alone in his nest and call, for 2–3 months of the year. If a wanting female finds him, they mate—quite vigorously—and she is left alone in the nest to incubate and rear her new chicks. Being alone and being lonely are two different things. Two very different things. Or so I tell myself.
Kara Eva Schlegl is a writer, comedian and producer out of Sydney. She writes for SBS Comedy, co-founded Sydney comedy room Wolf Comedy and hosts Little Tiny History Podcast.