The kea (Nestor notabilis) is endemic to the Southern Alps of New Zealand which is named by Maori for the sound of its call. This species is the world’s only mountain parrot. They are sociable and highly intelligent birds and also well adapted to their harsh environment. They have created conflict with humans over the last 150 years due to the traits that kea developed for survival, their curiosity, and omnivorous appetite. The kea is a Nationally Endangered species and persecution and predation have sorely depleted numbers and, there are only a few thousand birds remaining.
Kea in flight – Look at the orange features underneath and blue on top of its wings
According to BOTY, Kea’s curiosity for humans can lead them into peril or sickness too. These birds are often hit by cars, fed unnatural food, or poisoned by materials like lead after chewing on human-made things like houses and cars.
But they are smart, inquisitive creatures and no stranger to genuinely messing with humans.
David Attenborough, Renowned conservationist filmed a documentary called ‘The Smartest Parrot’ on the west coast of South Island, New Zealand for BBC about this bird known as one of the smartest and most playful of its species.
The recognition of this special bird on the nationally endangered list was admired by an organization called the Kea Conservation Trust. They also believe the Kea is more of an ambassador of New Zealanders than the reclusive Kiwi.
A co-founder of the Trust Tamsin, Orr-Walker said, “A lot of people are saying the Kea should be our national bird because they so much epitomize what it is to be a New Zealander: adventurous and up for a challenge and maybe a bit misunderstood.”
“I think New Zealanders are starting to realize how special Kea are; they are interactive birds and seek out humans which is very unusual. The fact they are declining from our mountains is alarming.”
According to the current research from the Kea Conservation Trust, 2-thirds of chicks sadly do not achieve the fledgling phase as their nests are ground-based making them easy prey for stoats, rats, and possums. (NZ government has promised to eradicate possums by 2050)
This bird is a large, strong-flying, olive-green parrot that has scarlet underwings and a slender grey-black bill. They are sexually dimorphic and the female body mass is about 20% less than males and the bill is shorter. Juveniles have yellow ceres and eyelids, and as the bird matures it fade to grey.
They sound a long, loud, high-pitched descending cry which may be broken “kee-ee-aa-aa”, or unbroken “keeeeeaaaa”. The juvenile has less stable calls in tone and is more of a loud uncontrolled whooping or squealing.