West Coast Birdlife – The Kea

West Coast Birdlife – The Kea

by | Jul 23, 2015

This week we’re starting a series on the Native Birdlife spotted on the West Coast.  The Southwest Coast is renowned for its Glaciers, but what is often over looked by visitors to the coast is the abundance of native birds that live amidst our pristine environment.  This week we’re starting things off with a playful bird – unlike any other on the planet.  The Kea.

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Kea’s are an intelligent bird … mischievous and playful with a mind that matches that of a 5 year old child!  They are the only ‘Mountain dwelling’ parrots on the planet and are often seen playing around Franz Josef Glacier.

The wild Kea population is unknown but is estimated to be between 1000 and 5000. They have distinctive orange feathers on the underside of their wings. Kea are very intelligent and use their ingenuity to find food and pull pranks on humans.  They have been known to steal possessions from bags, let down car tyres and work together to raid bins and other sources of food.

The Kea’s keen mind has attracted scientists from all over the world, it seems to be one of the few animals capable of original thinking and has problem solving abilities comparable with some of the more intelligent simian species and even human children!

Keas nest in tunnels hidden within the rocks of the mountains, inside the nest up to 4 chicks can be reared, this takes roughly 3 months. Monitoring by DOC has indicated that up to 60% of Kea nests can be attacked by predators. Up to the first year after fledging, chicks fly together investigating their surroundings and finding food sources. Keas display some predatory traits and sometimes eat other birds.

When European settlers arrived in the Kea’s territory, they brought sheep with them which changed the bird’s habitat, the keas then began to attack sheep, sitting on their backs and eating fat deposits contained there, this led to the Kea being hunted almost to extinction, they are now a protected species.

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Extend your stay on the coast – a couple of nights should give you enough time to experience the Glaciers to the rainforest and coastal wetlands!