Kea Nestor notabilis

Description

  • Kea are large parrots with mainly olive-green plumage (except for a scarlet underwing).
  • Their main call is a characteristic “keee-aa”.

Interesting facts

  • Kea, kaka and kakariki are omnivorous taking berries, seeds, nectar and invertebrates
  • Kea nest on the ground in burrows or beneath boulders or logs, making them particularly vulnerable to predation.
  • The New Zealand government paid a bounty for kea as they were considered to attack livestock. In the 100 years prior to 1970, over 150,000 kea were killed. The species only received full protection in 1986.
  • The size of the population is very poorly known given the difficulty in surveying the species. A number of different published estimates exist; the lowest estimate is 1,000-5,000 individuals, and the most optimistic estimate is 15,000 birds. The species was only recently classified as ‘At Risk-Naturally Uncommon’, but was upgraded to ‘Nationally Endangered’ in 2013. The decline of the species is thought to largely be the result of introduced predators.
  • Kea are often heralded for their extraordinary intelligence and curiosity.

Association with plantations

  • Kea often visit and feed in South Island high country plantation forests.

Threats

  • Competition for food resources from possums, introduced wasps and possibly rats.
  • Predation of eggs, young and adults by mustelids, cats, possums, and rats.
  • Predator control has been associated with significant increases in nest survival.
  • Feeding on the remains of people’s food and various man-made materials (particularly lead) can be detrimental to the health of individual birds.

Management options and methods

  • Undertake pest control if breeding populations are present in adjacent indigenous forest or remnants:
    • Initially use 1080 for possum and rats, which gives a secondary benefit of killing of mustelids and cats. Residual trap catch (RTC) monitoring should be less than 5% in order for kea to be able to breed successfully.
    • Follow-up trapping or poisoning may be needed (refer NZ pigeon).
    • Undertake mustelid and cat control using Fenn traps for mustelids and kill-traps for cats (refer to Kiwi section).
    • Wasp control – in parrot nesting areas consider searching for and destroying nests of common and German wasps using carbaryl or other similar toxins.
  • Injured or dead birds:
    • Place injured birds in a cardboard box (keep shaded) and deliver to a local vet, SPCA or DOC.
    • Call DOC if bird has a band or bird is dead.

Monitoring options

  • Database of sightings, nest locations, protection methods and breeding outcomes.
  • Report findings to DOC.

Further information and support

  • New Zealand Birds Online: kea.
  • Kea Conservation Trust website.
  • Heather and Robertson 2000. The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Viking. 440 pp.
  • Pest management: Department of ConservationRegional Councils.
  • Department of Conservation website: kea species account.