The Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) is a curious bird native to the montane forests of the French overseas collectivity of New Caledonia. Its placement among the avian family tree has been complicated since the time of its discovery, Once thought to be an ardeid like egrets and herons, it was considered in more recent times to be a gruiform. Of late, it’s usually been allied to the sunbittern of Central and South America, suggesting that the two species may be part of an ancient, Gondwanan radiation of birds.
It’s average-sized so far as ground-dwelling birds go, averaging at around 55 cm long. Strictly carnivorous, its diet consists mostly of invertebrates and small reptiles from the forest floor. Its generic name (‘rhyno’ = nose and ‘chetos’ = corn) stems from the ‘nasal corns’, a pair of flaps over the nostrils unique to the Kagu among all birds.
It is the heraldic bird of New Caledonia, and despite pressure from introduced mammals which has reduced its range on the island, is the focus of a number of dedicated conservation efforts which have seen considerable success.