Kea

The most mischievous yet intelligent bird is known for its remarkable learning behavior

Mark Whatmough

Renowned as the world’s only alpine parrot, it possesses a mischievous and inquisitive nature that never fails to captivate birdwatchers and researchers alike. Unlike many bird species that shy away from human interaction, the kea thrives on it, displaying a level of curiosity and intelligence that is truly remarkable.

These attention-seeking birds are known for their playful antics, particularly in snowy environments where they delight in frolicking and engaging in snowball fights. However, their playful demeanor can sometimes lead to trouble, as they have been known to playfully nibble on rubber items, including tires, much to the frustration of campers and tourists.

Remarkably intelligent, kea possesses problem-solving abilities akin to those of a four-year-old human child. They enjoy the challenge of solving puzzles and mysteries, often devising creative ways to open lids and manipulate objects. Unfortunately, this intelligence can sometimes manifest in mischievous behavior, such as throwing rocks at cats and humans, which has earned them a reputation for being a nuisance in some areas.

Despite their playful antics and endearing personalities, kea faces significant challenges in the wild. Their habit of raiding human settlements for food has led to conflicts with humans, resulting in retaliatory measures that threaten their survival. Illegal hunting of kea further compounds these threats despite legal protections in place to safeguard the species.

Breeding challenges also pose a significant obstacle to the kea’s survival. They typically nest in holes near tree trunks, where they lay clutches of 2 to 5 eggs. However, their reproductive success is hindered by low hatching rates, leading to concerns about their long-term viability in the wild. To address this issue, conservation efforts often involve captive breeding programs to bolster kea populations and ensure their continued existence.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
New Zealand
6,000
Official estimate
EN
2017
Breeding

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No