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Kea - Nestor notabilis

Kea - Nestor notabilis
Photo Information
Copyright: Steve Reekie (LordPotty) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1381 W: 144 N: 3872] (12503)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-05-04
Categories: Birds
Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5
Exposure: f/3.2, 1/125 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-09-04 6:38
Viewed: 5094
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 34
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Nestor notabilis

The Kea (Nestor notabilis) is a species of parrot (family Psittacidae) found in forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. The Kea is one of the few alpine parrots in the world, and includes carrion in an omnivorous diet consisting mainly of roots, leaves, berries, nectar and insects. Now uncommon,the Kea was once killed for bounty as it preyed on livestock, especially sheep, only receiving full protection in 1986.

Kea are legendary for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital to their survival in a harsh mountain environment.

Most people only encounter wild Kea at South Island ski areas. The Kea are attracted by the prospect of food scraps from human habitation. Their curiosity leads them to peck and carry away unguarded items of clothing, or to pry apart rubber parts of cars - to the entertainment and annoyance of human observers. They are often described as "cheeky".

Taxonomy and naming:
The Kea was described by ornithologist John Gould in 1856. Its specific epithet, the Latin term notabilis, means "noteworthy".The common name is from Māori, probably representing the screech of the bird. The term Kea is both singular and plural.

The genus Nestor contains three species: The Kākā (Nestor meridionalis), the Kea (N. notabilis), and the extinct Norfolk Island Kākā (N. productus). All three are thought to stem from a 'proto-Kākā', dwelling in the forests of New Zealand 15 million years ago.The closest relative is most likely the Kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus).
A 2005 sex chromosome spindlin DNA sequence study suggests that the Nestor species, and the Kākāpō in its own genus, comprise an ancient group that split off from all other Psittacidae before their radiation,but fossil evidence seems to contradict this[citation needed]; given the violent geological history of New Zealand (see, for example, Taupo Volcanic Zone), other explanations such as episodes of genetic drift seem better supported by evidence.

Distribution and Habitat:
The Kea (Nestor notabilis) is one of seven parrot species endemic to New Zealand. The other mainland species are the Kākā (Nestor meridionalis), the Kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus), and three species of Kākāriki: the Yellow-crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus auriceps), Red-crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae) and the Orange-crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi). The seventh New Zealand parrot species is the Antipodes Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus unicolor)), endemic to the subantarctic islands after which it is named.

The Kea ranges from lowland river valleys up to the alpine regions of the South Island such as Arthur's Pass and Mt. Cook National Park, closely associated throughout its range with the southern beech (Nothofagus) forests in the alpine ridge. Its notorious urge to explore and manipulate, combined with strong neophilia, makes this bird a pest for residents and an attraction for tourists. Called "the clown of the mountains", it will investigate backpacks, boots or even cars, often causing damage or flying off with smaller items.

Population estimates range from 1,000 to 5,000 individuals, but its widespread distribution at low density prevents accurate estimates.[7][8] Together with local councils and runholders, the New Zealand government paid a bounty for Kea bills because the bird preyed upon lifestock, mainly sheep.It was intended that hunters would kill Kea only on the farms and council areas that paid the bounty, but some hunted them in national parks and in Westland, where they were officially protected. More than 150,000 were killed in the hundred years before 1970, when the bounty was lifted.In the 1970s the Kea received partial protection after a census counted only 5000 birds. It was not fully protected until 1986, when farmers gave up their legal right to shoot any Kea that tampered with property or livestock. In exchange, the government agreed to investigate any reports of problem birds and have them removed from the land.

Life Span:
In the wild, undocumented, but estimated to be 15 years
At least one observer has reported that the Kea is polygamous, with one male attached to multiple females. The same source noted that there was a surplus of females.In one study, nest sites occur at a density of 1 per 4.4km▓.The breeding areas are most commonly in Southern Beech (Nothofagus sp.) forests, located on steep mountain sides. Breeding at heights of 1600m above sea level and higher, it is one of the few parrot species in the world to regularly spend time above tree line. Nest sites are usually positioned on the ground underneath large beech trees, in rock crevices or dug burrows between roots. They are accessed by tunnels leading back 1m to 6m into a larger chamber, which is furnished with lichens, moss, ferns and rotting wood. The laying period starts in January and reaches into July. 2-4 white eggs are laid, with an incubation time of around 21 days.

An omnivore, the Kea feeds on more than 40 plant species (Tab. 1), beetle larva, other birds (including shearwater chicks) and mammals (including sheep and rabbits).The Kea has also taken advantage of human garbage and "gifts" of food.In captivity, the bird is fond of butter, nuts, apples, carrots, grapes, mangoes, figs, bread, dairy products, ground meat and pasta.[citation needed]

There had been a long-running controversy about whether the Kea preys on sheep, with the earliest reports appearing in 1867. An article by naturalist G.R. Marriner in 1906, describing substantial anecdotal evidence of these attacks, became the accepted view of the bird's habits.[9] Several prominent members of the scientific community concluded that the rumours were true, although others were not convinced. However, in 1962 animal specialist J.R. Jackson concluded that the bird may attack sick or injured sheep, especially if it mistook them for dead, but that it was not a significant predator.[19] Finally, in 1993, its nocturnal assaults were captured on video,proving that at least some Kea will attack and feed on healthy sheep. The video confirmed what many scientists had long suspected, that the Kea uses its powerful curved beak and claws to rip through the layer of wool and eat the fat from the back of the animal. Though the Kea does not directly kill the sheep, death can result from blood poisoning or accidents suffered by animals trying to escape.

The Kea has also been observed breaking opened shearwater nests to feed on the chicks after hearing the chicks in their nests.

The Kea has been observed feeding on the following plants:
Fruits: Astelia nervosa Leaves and buds: Euphrasia zelandica
Coprosma pseudopunctata Gentiana bellidifolia
Coprosma pumila Gentiana spenceri
Coprosma serrulata Gnaphalium traversii
Cyathodes colensoi Hebe pauciramosa
Cyathodes fraseri Hebe vernicosa
Caultheria depressa Lagenophora petiolata
Muehlenbeckia axillaris Nothofagus solandri var cliff.
Pentachondra pumila
Podocarpus nivalis
Seeds: Aciphylla colensoi Flowers: Celimisia coriacea
Aciphylla ferox Celimisia discolor var ampla
Aciphylla monroi Celimisia spectabilis var ang.
Astelia nervosa Cotula pyrethrifolia
Hebe ciliolata Gentiana bellidifolia
Pimelea oreophila Gentiana patula
Pittosporum anomalu Gentiana spenceri
Plantago raoulia Haastia pulvinaris
Luzula campestris
Roots: Anisotome pilifera Entire plant: Anisotome aromatica var arom.
Celmisia coriacea Ourisia sessilifolia
Gingidium montanum Ourisia caespitosa
Notothlaspi australe Ourisia macrophylla
Ranunculus insignis

haraprasan, Argus, uleko, Alutka, jrobertop, flashpoint, rousettus, elizabeth, rcrick, cicindela, red45, jstewart has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To jstewart: photo clubsLordPotty 1 10-18 17:33
To elizabeth: Good workshopLordPotty 1 09-04 21:12
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Critiques [Translate]

nice portrait, great camouflage, TFS Ori

Namastay Steve,
A nice capture of this beautiful Kea bird. I was once watching these beauties in the Animal Planet Channel. Very well composed with sharp details. Thanks a lot for sharing.


  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2008-09-04 6:57]

Hello Steve,
Great portait of this notorious NZ parrot with superb sharpness to make it well seen against the stony part of the busy natural BG despite its camouflaged khaki colours.
TFS this fine image,

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-09-04 7:34]

Hello Steve,
Superb capture of the Kea in a fine pose in a natural environment. Impressive sharpness and lovely colours of the plumage. Well composed too.
TFS and regards, Ulla

Witaj, Kea to straszny rozrabiaka, słyszałam, ze potrafi wyskubać uszczelki z okien auta, albo porozrywać w strzępy namiot pozostawiony bez opieki. Fajnie wygląda z bliska - ma coś takiego w spojrzeniu jakby mˇwiła: zaraz coś wymyślę i zrobię wam psikusa.
Dziękuję i pozdrawiam

  • Great 
  • mariki Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 838 W: 60 N: 2307] (9477)
  • [2008-09-04 10:08]

Hello Steve,

Superb sharp picture of this beautiful bird. Excellent exposure and I like very much the colours.

Hi Steve.
Magnificent picture!
Beautiful bird with different coloration.
Excellent sharpness and details.
Perfect framing!
Thanks for sharing this marvel!
JosÚ Roberto

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-09-04 10:48]

Hello Steve,
Great photo of this Kea. Splendid harmonious colours in this photo. Sharpness, POV and composition are excellent.
Kind regards,

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-09-04 13:54]

Now this is cool!
How did you get so close?
Fantastic shot of this Kea.
You can see that mischievous glint in its eye :-)
Very sharp, detailed and clear.
Superb composition.
Great colours.
One of your best and straight into my favs!

Cheers mate,


p.s Ni!

hi Steve,
parrot by the name important
of rare beauty feathers you've been able to portray as best and the strange beak at hook
New Zeland to be discovered..thanks

best regardS sERGIO

Hello Steve
Nice to see famous Kea from your posts. This is great as like your mushroom posts. Great focus and POV. eyes contact and colors also superb. good notes. TFS, best wishes
PS: Your book in post. I hope you will receive as soon as possible and you will like it.

Hi Steve

A good up-close shot of the kea in it's natural environment. You have your subject nicely sharp, the composition is strong and the feather detail is excellent. On my monitor the image appears to have a colour cast - too yellow. On this basis I have done a workshop to correct how I see it. Hope you find it helpful. If you are warming an image be careful not to overdo the white balance, for me the real giveaway was the colour of the stones in the background which I knew should be more neutral 'greys'. Of course I realise this is all relative to one's own monitor settings. Well done on an otherwise excellent image.


Hi Steve,

This is a first for me, I have heard of these but never scene one, those colours are amazing, and the detail in the feathers is stunning, it almost blends into the background. Do they really kill sheep? Excellent notes to, all the best,

Cheers Rick :)

Hi Steve!
This picture reminds me my first visit in museum of Polish Academy of Sciences, when I was teenager. I had oportunity to see also all these things which are "hidden" normally, among them there was 1 individual of of this species. Of course it was not alive, but it was amazing discovery for me - so huge and original species of parrot.This image is much better than specimen I saw - first of all it is alive :)
Great photo and wonderful details. I wish I wuld see it someday in the wild :)
All the best from rainy Lodz my Friend!

  • Great 
  • red45 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2636 W: 74 N: 9091] (31094)
  • [2008-09-05 2:50]

Hi Steve!

Great picture of this Norwegian Green! I'm sure it is alive! Well, maybe in 75%. Or 50%. To be honest... 25% is enought. Ok, I was joking. This parrot is dead.

Great notes and a lovely shot mate. I just love the colours. I must check out Elizabeth's worshop. I love the twinkle in its eyes.


Hi Steve,
Just stumbled across this nice shot. May be the same Kea and indeed same rock that I've got on TN. Photogenically irresistable birds. Excellent focus on the kea, but if I were to show this to at my photo club (tough critics there) they would likely say a) too much overexposed white on the rock (tone down with the burn tool), and b) try and make background less obtrusive - use blur tool. But I think its great, mate!

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