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Flightless but fancy

Duration: 04:15

The little-known island of New Caledonia is a small sliver of Australia that was cast adrift over 60 million years ago. It’s home to a creature that seems to have evolved quite strangely. It has wings, but it can’t fly. It is, the kagu. Kagu families stick together, with young from previous years helping to declare the family territory. All intruders are chased away. In the breeding season, when males rekindle the flame with their life-long partners. It’s hard to know what the kagu is related to: a heron, a rail, or maybe a pigeon. Its closest relative may actually be the sunbittern of South America, 11,000 kilometres to the east. She may not seem too impressed, but then kagus always keep their feet very firmly on the ground. Their wings are too weak to get them airborne, but why fly when all the food you need is on the ground? And with no large predators stalking this island, there’s not much cause to take flight. But this life is not without its worries: a newly hatched chick hides among the leaves. As with babies the world over, getting food into mouth can be quite a challenge. Perhaps slimy worms just don’t appeal. The chick’s camouflage helps to hide it from aerial predators like the New Caledonian crow. Fortunately dad’s wings still have a use: to help him look big and intimidating.

Available since: Mon 14 Dec 2009

Credits

Presenter
Benedict Cumberbatch
Producer
Jonathan Clay
Producer
Huw Cordey
Composer
David Mitcham
Presenter
Benedict Cumberbatch
Producer
Jonathan Clay
Producer
Huw Cordey
Composer
David Mitcham

This clip is from

South Pacific Series 1, Strange Islands

Why do animals perfectly adapted to island life give up the ghost when new species arrive?

First broadcast: 07 Jun 2009

Image for Strange Islands Not currently available on BBC iPlayer

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