The kea is a type of parrot that resides in the mountains of the New Zealand’s South Island. It’s one of the few alpine parrots in the world.
Although the kea can fly, it tends to spend a lot of its time hobbling around on the ground. The kea diet generally consists of roots, leaves, berries, nectar and insects.
The kea is known for its intelligence. In fact, it has been rated as one of the most intelligent birds in the world.
Is the Kea Heading for Extinction?
The kea is a fully protected species. It was once hunted and killed because it preyed on livestock. The government even offered a bounty for the bills of kea.
Although it was intended that kea would only be shot on farmland, many would hunt kea in national parks.
More than 150,000 kea were killed prior to 1970. When it was discovered that there were an estimated 5,000 left, the kea received partial protection. This partial protection still enabled farmers to shoot kea if it was interfering with their property or livestock.
The kea wasn’t fully protected until 1986. It is estimated that there are now only between 1,000 and 5,000 kea left in the world.
The Kea is Notoriously Mischievous!
Kea can often be seen hobbling around the Milford Sound region and the ski areas, attempting to cause chaos to humans at every opportunity! They are very cheeky and inquisitive birds. And, as mentioned, they are also very intelligent. Many tourists to New Zealand’s alpine regions can recall at least one occasion of being harassed by a kea!
Tourists will often park their cars to view the scenery and take photos. Kea will then often jump onto the car and try to rip out the trimmings and/or wing mirrors etc. When the tourist tries to get back into the car, the kea will often try to prevent him!
This is exactly what happened to me near Milford Sound (see the photo)! There were two kea, one on the roof of my car, and another hobbling around on the ground. The second one then decided to attack a nearby car!
Unfortunately, it is humans that have caused the kea to behave in this way. Tourists are forever feeding the kea, thinking they are doing the right thing. Although this may seem like a compassionate gesture, quite the opposite is true. Feeding the kea results in the bird becoming more aggressive. In fact, this is seen to be such a large problem that the Department of Conservation has erected signs that read “Do not feed the kea”
Here’s a video I found on YouTube, demonstrating the outstanding intelligence of the the kea: