Blogger: Reporter for TV3 and Campaign Manager for the kea, Rachel Smalley
Kea get a bad rap. It’s true they can be vandals and thieves and their call is certainly shrill enough to burst an eardrum at 30 paces. But villians? Never. Kea, if anything, are just a little misunderstood.
They love company and they love a challenge. In the alpine regions of the Southern Alps, Kea will quickly befriend a tourist – and then steal their lunchbox. They’re smart. In fact, they’re super smart. Kea are considered among the most intelligent birds on the planet so if you enter their habitat, this gregarious and fearless parrot will want to say hello.
Much like the people who populate this country, Kea are chancers. They’re up for the challenge, no hurdle is too high, no task too daunting. They’re smart, nosey and slightly cunning and that’s possibly why they’ve survived for millennia.
It’s believed the Kea is a descendent of an ancient parrot that lived in the forests of New Zealand some five million years ago. I like that Kea have history. I like that they belong.
That said, for as long as I remember, Kea have had a hard time. Up until the mid 1980s farmers shot them, fearful they would attack lambs. Now Kea are protected but they need our support more than ever. Only 60% make it through their first year because, like so many of our native birds, they live on the forest floor and its chicks and eggs are vulnerable to pests like rats, possums, and stoats.
Kea always fare poorly in the Bird Of The Year poll, but this raucous little parrot with a curious mind and an appetite for adventure deserves – finally — to be acknowledged and celebrated as one of this country’s native national treasures.
To vote in this year’s Bird of the Year competition go here – www.birdoftheyear.org.nz. Polling closes on November 25th.