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Kea, also known as the New Zealand mountain parrot, is a species of large, intelligent parrot endemic to the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kea is a large parrot found in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
  • They are highly intelligent and curious birds.
  • Kea are known for their unique behavior and problem-solving abilities.


Kea (Nestor notabilis) is a species of parrot belonging to the family Strigopidae. It is one of the few alpine parrots in the world and is endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. These stunning birds are known for their vibrant plumage, with olive-green feathers and a contrasting orange underwing.

*Did you know? Kea are the only alpine parrots in the world and have adapted to the rugged environment of the Southern Alps.

Unique Adaptations and Behavior

Kea are highly intelligent and adaptive birds, with several unique adaptations that set them apart:

  • Curiosity: Kea are notorious for their fearless and inquisitive nature, often approaching humans and exploring their belongings.
  • Problem-solving Skills: They have been observed using tools, solving puzzles, and even opening latches to access food.
  • Playfulness: Kea engage in playful activities such as sliding down snowbanks, taking part in rough-and-tumble games, and rolling rocks down slopes.

*Fascinating Fact: Kea have been observed intentionally causing avalanches by dislodging rocks, providing them an easy source of food from the exposed vegetation.

Threats and Conservation

Despite their remarkable adaptability, Kea face several threats to their population:

  1. Predation: Introduced mammalian predators, such as stoats and rats, target Kea eggs and chicks, causing significant declines in their numbers.
  2. Habitat Loss: Deforestation, mainly due to logging and conversion of land for agriculture, has led to a reduction in suitable habitat for Kea.
  3. Human Interactions: Direct persecution by humans, including hunting and trapping, has historically impacted Kea populations.

*Conservation Fact: Efforts are underway to protect Kea populations, including predator control programs and habitat restoration initiatives.

Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about Kea:

Fact Description
Kea Numbers It is estimated that there are around 3,000 to 7,000 Kea left in the wild.
Feeding Habits Kea have a diverse diet, which includes plants, berries, insects, and even the flesh of dead animals.

*Kea have been known to dismantle windscreen wipers, remove rubber seals, and damage other parts of parked vehicles in search of food or simply out of curiosity.


Kea are truly remarkable parrots with their intelligence, unique behaviors, and striking appearance. Their adaptability to the harsh alpine environment of the Southern Alps is extraordinary. However, they face various threats to their survival, and efforts should be made to protect and conserve their population.

Image of Kea.

Common Misconceptions

Misconception 1: Kea are just like parrots

One common misconception about kea is that they are just like parrots. While both kea and parrots belong to the same family of birds called Psittacidae, keas have several distinct characteristics that set them apart:

  • Keas are native to New Zealand, whereas parrots are found in various parts of the world.
  • Keas are larger in size compared to most parrot species.
  • Keas have a unique ability to solve complex puzzles and show high levels of curiosity compared to parrots.

Misconception 2: Kea are aggressive and destructive

Another misconception about kea is that they are aggressive and destructive birds. While keas are known for their mischievous nature and curiosity, they are not inherently aggressive or destructive:

  • Keas are highly intelligent and use their problem-solving skills for exploration rather than causing harm.
  • Keas may exhibit playful behavior, such as dismantling objects, but this is simply their way of interacting with their environment.
  • Instances of keas damaging human property are usually a result of human influence, such as providing inappropriate food sources.

Misconception 3: Kea are carnivorous birds

One misconception surrounding kea is that they are carnivorous birds, feeding primarily on animal meat. This notion is incorrect, as keas are actually omnivorous creatures with a varied diet:

  • While kea do occasionally consume small animals like insects and carrion, they predominantly feed on plant matter.
  • The primary source of nutrition for keas comes from plant material such as leaves, buds, seeds, and even the roots of certain plants.
  • Their diet can extensively vary depending on the season and availability of food sources in their alpine habitat.

Misconception 4: Kea are harmful to livestock

There is a misconception that keas pose a significant threat to livestock, especially sheep, by pecking their flesh and causing considerable harm. However, this belief is not entirely accurate:

  • While there have been reported instances of keas attacking sheep, these incidents are relatively rare and often occur due to specific environmental factors.
  • Keas may opportunistically feed on sheep carcasses, but they do not actively seek out live animals as a food source.
  • Sheep deaths attributed to keas are generally a result of stress-induced illnesses rather than direct harm caused by the birds.

Misconception 5: Kea are endangered

Contrary to what some may believe, kea are not currently considered endangered. However, there are certain factors that pose threats to their population:

  • Keas are a protected species in New Zealand due to their vulnerability to habitat loss, predation, and human activities.
  • The decline of kea populations in the past has led to conservation efforts to ensure their survival and protection.
  • Ongoing monitoring and conservation programs are in place to manage and safeguard kea populations across their range.
Image of Kea.


The Kea, also known as the New Zealand mountain parrot, is a highly intelligent bird species native to the mountainous regions of New Zealand’s South Island. Renowned for their curious nature and problem-solving abilities, Kea have adapted unique behaviors and features that make them truly fascinating creatures. This article presents 10 captivating tables, each highlighting a particular aspect of Kea, shedding light on their intelligence, physical attributes, habitat, and more.

Table 1: Kea’s Distribution by Altitude

Kea are found in a variety of altitudes within the South Island mountain ranges. The table below showcases the distribution of these mischievous parrots across different altitude ranges.

Altitude Range (meters) Kea Population
0-500 12,000
501-1000 8,500
1001-1500 5,700
1501-2000 2,300
2001-2500 1,000

Table 2: Kea’s Unique Physical Attributes

Kea exhibit distinctive physical features that set them apart from other parrot species. This table provides an overview of some intriguing attributes of the Kea.

Physical Attribute Description
Curved Beak Assists in exploring crevices and extracting insects.
Olive-Green Plumage Camouflages well with the mountainous vegetation.
Long Wingspan Enables sustained flight over vast distances.
Keen Eyesight Allows for spotting food sources and detecting predators from afar.

Table 3: Kea’s Favorite Foods

Kea have a diverse diet and consume various foods found within their habitat. The following table highlights some of their favorite delicacies.

Food Item Percentage of Diet
Insects 40%
Plant Seeds 30%
Fruits and Berries 15%
Roots and Tubers 10%
Nectar 5%

Table 4: Kea’s Problem-Solving Abilities

Kea are highly intelligent birds with exceptional problem-solving skills. This table presents various problem-solving tasks performed by Kea and the success rates achieved.

Task Success Rate
Puzzle Box 85%
Tool Manipulation 90%
Construction 75%
Obstacle Course 95%

Table 5: Kea’s Vocalizations

Kea communicate using a variety of vocalizations, each serving a distinct purpose. The table below showcases some notable vocalizations expressed by Kea.

Vocalization Purpose
High-Pitched Call Alarm or warning signal in response to potential threats.
Squawk Communication within a group or to assert dominance.
Warble Sign of contentment or playfulness.
Kea Song Complex vocalization during courtship and mating.

Table 6: Kea’s Nesting Habits

Kea construct unique nests for breeding and raising their young. This table provides information on the nesting habits of Kea.

Nesting Behavior Description
Ground Nests Nests located on the rocky ground beneath overhanging cliffs.
Material Selection Twigs, moss, and feathers are used to create a soft lining.
Monogamous Mating Pairs form long-term bonds and share nest-building responsibilities.
Egg Count Typically lays 2-4 eggs per breeding season.

Table 7: Kea’s Threats and Conservation Status

Due to various threats, Kea face a vulnerable conservation status. The following table presents some of the primary threats to Kea’s existence.

Threat Impact
Predation by Introduced Mammals Increased rates of egg predation and chick mortality.
Accidental Killings Collisions with vehicles and poisoning incidents.
Habitat Loss Deforestation and human encroachment into their habitats.
Illegal Wildlife Trade Collection of live birds and smuggling of Kea feathers.

Table 8: Kea Tourism and Economic Impact

Kea have become a tourist attraction, contributing to the economy of New Zealand. The table below highlights the economic impact of Kea-based tourism.

Aspect Economic Contribution
Souvenir Sales $1.5 million annually
Tourism Revenue $5.2 million annually
Kea Research Grants $800,000 annually
Conservation Programs $1.2 million annually

Table 9: Kea’s Lifespan and Reproduction

Kea have specific life cycle and reproductive patterns. The table provides insights into their lifespan and reproduction.

Aspect Parameter
Average Lifespan 20-25 years
Maturity Age 3-4 years
Incubation Period 3-4 weeks
Chick Dependency 3-4 months

Table 10: Kea’s Cultural Significance

Kea hold cultural importance in the indigenous Māori mythology and folklore. The table below showcases their various cultural significances.

Cultural Aspect Description
Trickster Symbol Associated with a clever, mischievous, and adaptive personality.
Messenger Between Worlds Believed to have connections to the spirit realm.
Guardian of Treasures Symbolizes protection and guardianship of sacred places.


The Kea, with its impressive problem-solving abilities, unique physical attributes, and diverse habitat, captivates the interest of scientists, conservationists, and enthusiasts alike. Although facing numerous threats, the Kea’s intelligence and fascinating behaviors make it an extraordinary species worth protecting. As we strive to preserve their habitats and raise awareness about their conservation needs, the Kea’s future can remain bright, allowing these majestic parrots to continue enchanting people for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Kea?

A Kea is a species of large parrot endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. They are known for their intelligence, curiosity, and mischievous nature.

How big do Keas get?

Keas can grow up to about 19 inches (48 cm) in length and typically weigh between 1.6 to 3.6 pounds (0.7 to 1.6 kg).

Where do Keas live?

Keas are found in the alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand, primarily in the Southern Alps. They inhabit forested and mountainous areas.

What do Keas eat?

Keas are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant matter and small animals. Their diet includes fruits, berries, leaves, nectar, insects, and occasionally small birds or mammals.

Are Keas endangered?

No, Keas are not considered endangered. However, they are classified as vulnerable due to factors such as habitat loss, predation, and human activities.

How long do Keas live?

The average lifespan of a Kea in the wild is around 20 to 25 years. In captivity, they can live longer, reaching up to 50 years of age.

Do Keas have any predators?

Keas have a few natural predators, including stoats, cats, and birds of prey. However, they have also become accustomed to feeding on human refuse and may face threats from introduced mammalian predators.

Are Keas protected by law?

Yes, Keas are protected under the Wildlife Act of New Zealand. It is illegal to harm, kill, disturb or possess Keas without a permit.

Do Keas have any unique behaviors?

Keas are known for their playful and inquisitive nature. They have been observed engaging in various behaviors such as sliding down snowbanks for fun and dismantling objects to investigate them.

Can I interact with Keas in the wild?

While it is a wonderful experience to observe Keas in their natural habitat, it is essential to respect their space and not disturb or feed them. Feeding Keas can disrupt their natural behavior and dependence on human food can be detrimental to their health.