The Kea (Nestor notabilis) is an unusual parrot, as it is the only truly alpine parrot in the world. This bird was crowned Bird of the Year in 2017, but it gained early notoriety among the settlers for attacking their sheep. It attracts the people wherever they enter its mountain domain and are a feature at South Island ski-fields and mountain huts in New Zeeland.
The endangered kea is one of the most intelligent birds, with a population of 3,000–7,000 estimated. Like other birds, the kea is a beautiful addition to the scene, while the pleasant sound it makes creates a magical, relaxing atmosphere in nature.
Unfortunately, kea belongs to the group of birds that have been extinct due to disturbed ecological balance, poaching, and hunting. They are vital to the balance of this ecosystem, so to preserve them, their habitat must be made a clean and safe place to live.
Male kea is slightly bigger than females and has larger beaks, but they are all great flyers. His name in Maori is onomatopoeic because his long, loud, high-pitched cry can be broken by “kee-ee-aa-aa” or an uninterrupted “keeeeeaaaaa”.
The National Bird of New Zeeland
Trust co-founder Tamsin Orr-Walker states that Kea should be the national bird of New Zealand. He adds that Kea is one of the most abused New Zealand birds, as well as one of their favorites. This bird is one of the few wild species that is looking for people, which is due to their curious nature, which brings them into trouble because their communication with humans actually endangers their survival.
In the BBC documentary called ‘The Smartest Parrot” this amazing and bold bird has been portrayed, by renowned conservationist, David Attenborough.
Behavior and Ecology
Kea is monogamous, with long-term relationships with a partner. The juvenile kea gathers in loose, wandering flocks, and within the flock, a flexible social hierarchy develops. The juvenile period is long compared to other parrots’ adaptability, which is a key part of kea ecology.
It possesses specific behaviors and morphological characteristics, such as digging for food, nesting in the soil, winter cultivation, social dynamics, intelligence, prolonged phase of youth, and use of alpine habitat.
Kea is omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of plant and animal substances, such as shoots of trees and shrubs, fruits, leaves, nectar, and seeds, as well as insect larvae. Some birds descend on the backs of sheep and dig through the skin and muscles of the groin.
Kea nest mainly in the native forest and socialize on prominent rocky outcrops and windy saddles above or below the wooden line. They usually lay 4 eggs from July to January and the incubation lasts 22-24 days. The chicks remain in the nest for up to 3 months, and the female is responsible for incubating, breeding and feeding the young, while the male brings food.
The female can nest for several consecutive years, but not all females nest each year.