where do kea birds live

What does a Kea look like?

The olive-green feathers of the large parrot, known as keas, deepen to a teal blue at the tips of its wings. Reddish-orange markings can be seen on the base of the tail and the underside of the wings. Kea females have shorter beaks and are marginally smaller than males.

Many other native birds in New Zealand lack wings, such as the kakapo, a relative of the kea. Unlike them, kea can fly very well.

Their loud, high-pitched cry of “keee-aaa” is referenced in their Maori name, which is onomatopoeic. But this isn’t the only sound they make; young ones also holler and squeal and converse more softly with one another.

Introduced predators kill kea

The main predators of kea are stoats, but feral cats also pose a serious threat, especially in parts of the eastern South Island where cat populations are invading kea habitat. It is well known that possums eat kea and damage nests; rats have also been seen to eat kea eggs on occasion.

Because they make their nests in easily accessible ground cavities, kea are especially vulnerable. They are also at risk because they spend a lot of time on the ground investigating and gathering food.

Monitoring indicates that approximately 2070 percent of kea nests are successful and produce at least one chick when predators are subdued with timely aerial treatment (2010–80%) and/or traps. This success rate is approximately 2040 percent without pest control, but it falls to 2010 percent or less after a forest mast (seeding) that puts rats and stoat numbers through the roof. More juvenile and adult kea also survive with predator control.

Become a kea surveyor!

If you are a regular backcountry user, then start recording the presence and absence of kea on your trips.

Report sightings on the Kea Database website or to the nearest DOC office.

If the kea is banded, important information to record is the band color combination or numbers, the location where it was observed, the time and date of observation, and the activity of the kea. Photos are especially useful.

  • Never feed kea. Feeding kea is harmful to them.
  • Keep temptations like loose clothing and boots, backpacks, food, and colorful objects away from areas where kea are present.
  • Replace lead nails and flashing on buildings with non-toxic alternatives.

FAQ

What habitat does a kea live in?

The kea is a protected species that lives in forests and mountainous areas across the South Island from Golden Bay to Fiordland. This native parrot is a taonga for Ng?i Tahu and Ng? iwi o Te Tauihu (northern South Island iwi) and valued by New Zealanders as an icon of the outdoors.

Where do keas nest?

They nest in the beech forests at sea level on the West Coast of the South Island, in the mountain forests along the Southern Alps (as far north as Kahurangi National Park and as far south as Fiordland) and are also in the mountains as far east as Kaikoura.

How rare are kea birds?

Endangered mountain parrot Kea are the only mountain parrot species in the world and now number fewer than 5,000 individuals in the wild (Anderson, 1986).

How many kea are left in the world?

With fewer than 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild, kea are now listed as Threatened – Nationally Endangered; the second-highest threat level in New Zealand.