New Zealand’s alpine parrot the kea, has the beak and has the brain, but that’s not enough

NZ juvenile kea

My favourite kea photo ~ why? I like the smug and comfortable look of confidence and happiness. Yes, kea can both recognise emotions and exhibit them ~ all photos by Southern Light

New Zealand’s alpine parrot cuts right across the aloofness of a landscape and weather that takes no prisoners, greeting us with life and curiosity that never fails to get us smiling; a feathered and garrulous court jester of our mountains.

The birds decline in numbers to under 5000 has been due to an historic century-long bounty, 120,000 having been paid out on by successive governments wanting to help the farming economy, and in more later years by them eating lead headed nails on high country shearing sheds and hut roofs, and being predated on by ever increasing numbers of stoats and other vermin.

Soon they’ll be extinct unless we keep up with widespread large-scale pest control, backed by a commitment to evolving and sound science, flavoured by innovation.

This post is a brief look at some of the current methodologies, and serendipitously while preparing it a friend in the US, Don Watson [check out his recent post on Owl Baiting by unscrupulous bird photographers], a supporter of this site, just sent this message on FaceBook:

Watched a very interesting documentary about kea’s and Caledonian crows. It was called “Beak and Brain, genius birds from down under”. Very interesting, the research going on and the problems that stoats and predators are bringing to the kea. The 1 hr. Video was on Netflix. Showed the predator trapping and a kea cave that was photographed with a stoat killing the female and her 2 chicks. Stuff that you deal with every day at Mt. Aspiring, but really interesting to see some of what you do there.

A link to the movie appears below. Meanwhile here are a few photos taken very recently in Mt Aspiring National Park, of highly skilled conservationists doing their job…

NZ kea being banded

This is one way to catch a NZ kea – something bright and interesting alongside a net wielded by a skilled person

NZ kea being banded

In the net! The previous “bait” was changed to something that would be less of a hassle in the net with the bird, in this case a tube of toothpaste as it’d be hard for the bird to fly off with it should the netting fail

NZ kea being banded

Held firmly in gentle hands our new friend amazes me as he calmly looks about with a distinct air of intelligence! At this point being a juvenile [yellow areas about the beak/eyes] gender is not known.

NZ kea being banded

Measurements are taken carefully for the future

NZ kea being banded

Bands being attached to both legs to aid future identification. They can live for up to 30 years. Check out those claws!

NZ kea being banded

Non plussed post release and in no hurry to depart, the new “bling” is examined and pecked at

NZ kea being tracked

The next stage in saving the kea is to catch females and attach radio collars. Then track them to their nests and install video cameras and/or surround the nest with traps. The kea on the ground is sadly no longer alive, but lives on to attract others for banding

Beak & Brain: Genius Birds From Down Under | Netflix

Whoever came up with the term “bird brain” never met these feathered thinkers, who use their claws and beaks to solve puzzles, make tools and more.

Source: Beak & Brain: Genius Birds From Down Under | Netflix

Thanks also to FMC ~ Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand for their recent article inspiring, often via choice of words, me to share my experiences 

NZ on Screen also has an excellent video >>

Lastly should you wish to help, then please donate to the Kea Conservation Trust >>

Kea glenfoyle