Wednesday, June 12, 2013

K is for KEA

I just couldn't resist making the Kea my "K" bird as I was so fascinated watching several of them on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand many years ago when holidaying in that beautiful country.  They are very mischievous parrots and I saw them trying to steal bits from cars parked nearby particularly if people had roof racks with pieces dangling down.  Probably annoying to the people concerned, but you couldn't help but admire the tenacity of these birds.  I felt they perhaps have a devilish sense of humour.


The KEA (Nestor notabilis) is a large species of parrot found in forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand.

 About 48 cm (18 in) long, the Kea is mostly olive-green with brilliant orange under its wings and has a large, narrow, curved, grey-brown upper beak.  The Kea is the world's only alpine parrot.  Its omnivorous diet includes carrion, but consists mainly of roots. leaves, berries, nectar and insects.   The Kea was once killed for bounty due to concerns by the sheep-farming community that it attacked livestock, especially sheep.  It received full protection only in 1986.


The Kea nests in burrows or crevices among the roots of trees.  Kea are known for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital for their survival in a harsh mountain environment.  Kea can solve logical puzzles, such as pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get to their food, and will work together to achieve a certain objective.



The Kea was described by ornithologist John Gould in 1856.  Its specific epithet the Latin "notablis" means "noteworthy".  The common name is from Maori,  probably representing the screech of the bird.  The term "Kea" is both singular and plural.  A gathering or group of Kea is called a circus (and feel this is particularly apt when speaking about this bird).


The Kea's notorious urge to explore and manipulate makes this bird a pest for residents and an attraction for tourists.  Called "the clown of the mountains" it will investigate backpacks, boots, or even cars, often causing damage or flying off with small items.  The Kea is attracted by the prospect of food scraps.  Their curiosity leads them to peck and carry away unguarded items of clothing or to pry apart rubber parts of cars - to the entertainment and annoyance of human observers.  They are often described as "cheeky".  A Kea has even been reported to have made off with a Sottish man's passport while he was visiting Fiordland National Park.

I just had to include this photo of a baby Kea (it looks so forlorn doesn't it?)



Some people believe that the unbalanced diet resulting from feeding Kea human foods, has a dertimental effect on the bird's health.  The Department of Conservation also suggest that the time savings resulting from a more calore-rich diet will give Kea more free time to investigate and hence damage things at campsites and car parks.  The birds' naturally trusting behaviour around humans has also been indicated as a contributing factor in a number of recent incidents at popular tourist spots where Kea have been purposely killed.  (There we go again with horrible people behaving far worse than animals do and from all reports it is still happening).

The Kea featured on the reverse side of the New Zealand $10 note between 1967 and 1992, when it was replaced with the whio.



10 comments:

  1. Thank you so much. I can remember being fascinated by a documentary about these amazing birds. Their problems solving skills are exceptional and seeing them acting together to achieve their goal (even when only one of them was rewarded) was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are truly a very intriguing bird and fun to watch (if they are not stealing bits from your own car). It's amazing how they survive in the cold as they do.

      Delete
  2. Oh the Kea is so beautiful. It saddens me the things people do.
    The sheep were probably not harmed by the bird there are a lot of silly myths that go around.
    Thank you for sharing. B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are lovely. There is supposedly recorded old film showing the kea attacking sheep but it didn't say if the sheep were already deceased. Some people will find fault with anything.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. They really are and I am so glad we were able to experience them when in NZ.

      Delete
  4. I've never seen this bird before, it certainly is beautiful and that brilliant orange under the wings is a bit spectacular.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Quite a sight to see when they fly. They are real tricks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mimsie I would like to use some of this for an article could you mail me please

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry but have only just found this comment. What exactly was it you were wanting? I will try and find your blog and perhaps make contact with you there.

      Delete