Vitamin D key to survival of endangered parrot – Xinhua

WELLINGTON, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — A simple vitamin could be the key to bringing one of the world’s most endangered bird back from the brink of extinction, New Zealand scientists said Friday.

New research from Massey University on vitamin D could be a game-changer in breeding among New Zealand’s native parrot, the kakapo, which has a population of just 125.

Dr. Pamela von Hurst said the study linked vitamin D in the native rimu fruit with the endangered parrot’s nutritional needs and breeding habits.

Kakapo bred only in years when the local trees were full with fruit, which they fed to their chicks, von Hurst said in a statement.

These included rimu, which, the study showed, produced berries rich in vitamin D, a nutrient essential for laying eggs and the growth of chicks.

“This could change the way we encourage breeding. Rimu berries provide kakapo with high levels of vitamin D and calcium, meaning they are the perfect food package for breeding and nesting birds,” said von Hurst.

From the beginning of the breeding season in spring, female kakapo consumed rimu berries, which were still unripe at that time.

“We know that kakapo breed in response to rimu fruiting. This result may tell us why, and help us identify which other trees stimulate breeding,” she said.

“The next step will include measuring the vitamin D levels of adult birds during breeding, growing chicks and rimu fruit throughout the ripening process, to see if the vitamin D content changes over time, and with it, the levels in the birds.”

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