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Natives

Kea

kea

Nestor notabilis

Distribution:

Plentiful on the western side of the Southern Alps, kea may also be found in the Pelarus Mountains and the Kaikoura Range as well as the Tararua Range of the North Island

Habitat:

Found in native forests up to 2000m. Kea are less common east of the main divide where native forests are fewer.

Diet:

Berries, seeds, tender roots, leaf buds, flowers, insects and worms. Nectar of the flowering mountain flax is a favourite food. Kea will also scavenge rubbish dumps and carrion.

Breeding:

July - January; males may have one or more mates

Nest:

Often on the ground in a rocky crevice, beneath tree roots or a fallen tree. Loosely made of lichens, twigs, leaves, nests may be added to over several years.

Eggs:

Two to three eggs incubated for 21-24 days - the male roosts nearby to guard the nest or geed the female

Chicks:

Chicks remain in the nest for 9-12 weeks and are fledged by 13-14 weeks. Only 37% of Kea live longer than one year

Predators:

Humans and introduced mammals such as stoat, cats and brush-tailed possum

Conservation status:

Vulnerable

General:

The Kea are unique to the Southern Alps and are the only worlds only true alpine parrot. They are also one of the world’s most intelligent animal! Kea are very social – they love to play, are very inquisitive and like to investigate new things.

Kea are named after their loud "keaa" warning call but they also have a range of less harsh 'conversational' calls.

Distinguishing features of a kea include general olive-green colour with orange-red underwings. The male's beak is more curved than the female's. Like most parrots they walk with deliberate, waddling stride; jumping when in a hurry. Kea fly low and fast through bush, high when travelling far.

Up until its protection in 1970, over 150,000 were shot in a government bounty scheme, established because rogue individuals were found to be attacking sheep as a source of fat. There now remain an estimated 1000-5000 in the wild. They are now protected but their status is unclear. Threats to the kea include lead poisoning, 1080 poisoning, human persecution and predation by introduced pests.

To find out how you can help conserve kea in the wild, go to www.keaconservation.co.nz.