kagu (käˈgō) [key], common name for a long-legged, heronlike bird, Rhynochetos jubatus. It has a loose, gray plumage with darker bandings; broad, rounded wings marked with white, black, and red; and a striking orange-red bill and feet. About the size of domestic fowl, the kagu has a large head endowed with a long erectile topcrest. Once abundant on the islands of the Coral Sea, the shy, nocturnal kagu is now close to extinction, and may only be found in the remotest mountains of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Like the dodo, the kagu suffered greatly from the ravages of domestic animals, especially pigs and dogs. A forest-floor dweller, it lives on a diet of insects and snails. It is practically flightless, but is a rapid runner with a curious manner of progress; it moves in short spurts, then stands motionless before moving on again. Its courtship behavior consists of a wild, skipping dance. The female lays a single, pale brown, rust-streaked egg, depositing it in a ground nest of leaves and twigs. Both sexes share in the incubation. Kagus are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Gruiformes, family Rhynochetidae.
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