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Endangered species of New Zealand

Kea - Nestor notabilis

Distribution The kea is the only alpine parrot on Earth, and is generally found 600 to 2000m in the South Island from Nelson to Fiordland. Until 1971 a bounty was put on kea beaks and an estimated 150,000 kea were killed. Their numbers have steadily been declining and now there are only a few thousand left. Research of Canterbury University found that kea select more fruiting species, consumed more fruit and dispersed more seeds than all other alpine birds combined. It is believed that kea once inhabited the Chatham Islands and the North Island.

Diet The kea eat berries and nectar of rata, flax, coprosma and totara. Also insects, buds and windscreen wipers. According to Morris & Ballance (2008) southern beech seed is an important food source, and in mast years (prolific seed production) provides an abundance of food.

Breeding Breeding age of the kea is usually 3 years, and breeding occurs from July through to January. Nest sites are usually on the ground, in a crack or hole of a tree's root system. The nest chamber is usually lined with moss, lichens, and leaves, and 2-4 eggs are incubated by the female for around a month. The young kea stay in the nest for between 2 1/2 to 3 months.

General The kea is about the size of a sulphur-crested cockatoo, up to 50cm. There's not much difference visually between the male and female except the male generally has a more curved beak. The young kea has a pale yellow lower mandible and cere. They are related to the kaka.

The kea is a bird of immense character, mischievous, bold, curious and generally friendly. They're also rated as one of the most intelligent birds anywhere. See the video on the main bird page of a kea solving problems. The kea is an excellent flyer - but hops sideways on the ground comically. They express little fear and are notorious for making themselves at home in alpine lodges and cafes where they try their luck for cup cakes and pies. Once inside the they can be hard to remove if determined to stay put. The kea is endemic to New Zealand.

Photos Generously provided by Steve Reekie (original files may have been cropped).

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Birds of New zealand
Kea head birds of New Zealand
Keas foot birds of New Zealand
Two Kea birds of New ZealandKea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
Kea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
Kea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
Kea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
Kea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
Kea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
Kea birds of New Zealand
Steve Reekie
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