Wednesday, June 12, 2013
K is for KEA
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.