Fiordland's cheeky kea
If you have ever been to Fiordland you may have been lucky enough to have seen or interacted with the cheeky, highly intelligent and endangered kea. One of the world's only alpine parrots kea are well known in southern New Zealand for their entertaining hijinks and inquisitive nature. Kea are often found in areas where they can interact with people like at Arthur's Pass and on the Milford Road. Despite their seemingly lovable nature these birds are in decline due to nest predation by rats and stoats, poisoning by chewing on objects with lead and also by eating human food.
The kea's diet consists of berries, seeds, grasses and insects. Their natural instinct is to forage for this food. When they are fed by humans they learn bad habits and loose the instinct to look for their own food. It also puts them in danger as they congregate around car parks in the hope of a tasty snack and something to play with. It is not uncommon for kea to be killed or injured on roads and in car parks because of this. In the winter time it also puts them at risk of starvation as there are not so many people around and they have lost their ability to find their own food.
In the mountainous areas of Fiordland the Department of Conservation and Milford Road Alliance have to go to extreme lengths to protect their radio repeaters and weather monitoring equipment from the kea who like to rip things apart and play with anything shiny. Some of the measures taken include using heavy duty metal cables and spikes to keep the kea away.
We hope you have the chance to see these incredible birds while you are visiting Fiordland. Please help us help the kea - don't feed them, and keep your distance.
Photo taken by local photographer Douglas Thorne