Kagu - your questions answered

Male kagu displayingThe Kagu ... this male is defending its own piece of island. Seeing another male, he is fluffed up to appear larger and stronger. The intruder is attempting a challenge, but the defender is a formidable spectacle and soon the crest falls and both get on with being their secretive selves in the forests of New Caledonia.

But what is the kagu? No one is really sure. At a glance it might be a kind of rail - they certainly flick their tails like one. They also behave a little like cranes, but despite having wings are unable to fly. As yet, scientifically, the kagu stands alone - unique to New Caledonia and with few fossil clues to its ancestry.

There are several curious features of these tiny outlying islands, and of New Caledonia itself, which suggest the ancestors of the kagu may have walked here. The idea that islands, and whole continents, have moved over the surface of the globe has become well accepted, and New Caledonia is still making such a journey. One hundred million years ago this land was very close to a super-continent, Gondwana. It became an island when that continent was broken apart by colossal volcanic forces. The plants and animals aboard that primeval island became isolated from the continent, they became the ancestors of many living on New Caledonia today. These forests of ancient conifers are an echo of Gondwana a hundred million years ago.

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