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New Zealand Kea

New Zealand Kea
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: 2005-06-05
Categories: Birds
Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ-2-S
Exposure: f/3.3, 1/100 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-06-08 9:11
Viewed: 6869
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 48
[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 4.4km².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

(Information from Wikipedia)

carper, cataclysta, pekkavalo1, darwin, yasin, dB_grafix, John_F_Kennedy, elizabeth, Hormon_Manyer, uleko, NinaM, horia has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To joey: Cheers JoeLordPotty 1 06-08 19:12
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Hello Steve,
Nicely done. I do like the mist...

  • Great 
  • carper Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1973 W: 119 N: 2582] (8439)
  • [2008-06-08 10:35]

what a note.... Nice to see you Steve,
very good capture of those parrots, very nice pov, goot atmosphere, and very good photojob, I like it Steve, he a nice day.
gr. jaap

  • Great 
  • hades (38)
  • [2008-06-08 11:44]

bonjour Steve je trouve ta photo magnifique et elle est tres nette.que dire a par continue comme ca.
Jimmy (hades)

Hi Steve,

I have heard a lot of this bird and their not so nice habits. Very cute picture of the pair with good composition, POV, sharpness of details and colours.



  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-06-08 12:04]
  • [+]

What a brilliant shot, Steve!
Pin-sharp with incredible detail.
Excellent lighting and colours.
Superb poses too.
I love the BG.

Very, very well done!

Cheers mate,


What a odd looking pair, odd in a good way though I might add. The mist and the lighting make me feel like it is a shot from prehistoric times !
Top work that man.


great shot! I love the colours and light. very well focus.

amazing couple,TFS Ori

  • Great 
  • darwin Gold Star Critiquer [C: 259 W: 0 N: 403] (1401)
  • [2008-06-08 19:28]

Hi Steve
Wonderful capture and nice composition
Lovely setting with superb detail in feathers
Great shot in there natural enviromment
tfs jon

  • Great 
  • yasin Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 31 W: 1 N: 43] (129)
  • [2008-06-08 20:50]

Halo Steve,
Very good composition and captured. They're seem so happy leaving in the forest. I've never seen this kind of parrots. TFS.

Best regards from Indonesia

  • Great 
  • Janice Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3277 W: 148 N: 6163] (18832)
  • [2008-06-08 22:26]

Kea are legendary for their intelligence and curiosity AND the damage they leave behind!! Very, very cheeky.
Super portrait of these two, they look so real. I love their looks and how the wind is blowing the feathers
Thanks Steve

This is just an incredible POV Steve. I am impressed with the positioning of the birds, and details of feathers.
The mist is a good addition to the composition as well.
Great notes.

Hi Steve
Beautiful shot. Fantastic object I have seen those birds only in movies. Great natural surrounding, perfect compo and good sharpness

Sharp and fine picture with good composition! A very fine to see this couple of Keas!
Best wishes,

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-06-09 2:22]

Hello steve,What a beautiful shot.Lovely composition and well focussed. I like the expression on the face. Ganesh

An excellent shot, Steve. Great composition and the birds have posed nicely for you, the feather detail is good and the focus is spot on. Try toning down the white rock with the burn tool to see if it helps your image (I find it drags the eye away from your subject a bit). Well done.

This is a great shot Steve! The birds are so sharp and there is so much detail in the feathers. I love the even lighting and the colors of the birds and the background together. The colors along with the mist give the image a sort of painterly quality. Thanks for sharing this species with us. I never heard of this species until today. :)

Hi Steve

an oldie but a goodie, wish I'd seen them but that's life, next time.
Good composition and sharpness, though the back one looks a bit dark on my monitor.


Hi Steve,
Fantastic shot of Your famous native bird (I mean one of the many). You captured the keas, the rock and the mist all the most perfect way by my opinion - no OE on the bright parts, but great colors and plenty of details. I can only say: bravo!
Very interesting photo and note about a very interesting animal. Tfs.
Friendly regards, László

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-06-17 10:00]

Hello Steve,
Quite honestly I apologize for missing many of your superb captures!! I find that the amount of fine contributions on TN has increased and it is really hard to keep up and be fair! I really love watching other people's work and wish I had more points to give! It does take a lot of time though!
Anyway, this is a typical post that I missed -I noticed it at once but my points were finished and I meant to return but forgot - this happens often!
I really love your capture of these two Keas, I know they're naughty birds but here they look so beautiful! You've caught them in a lovely pose, the light and colours are beautiful and details are very sharp. A fine lush background too and very well composed.
Many thanks and I'll return! Cheers, Ulla

  • Great 
  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2008-06-17 15:50]

hou Steve, what a fantastic gallery with much ambient beauty and mystery... I like the darkness and obscurity of some of your pictures, revealing the beauty of where we don't usually go. The country of mushrooms and fungi and this one here, those two "magnificent" birds. You treated the picture so it looks medieval and mysterious, almost magical. There's something in there that attracts us to look at it, it's more than meets the eyes ;-) Really, it's fantastic,


  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2008-06-19 4:45]

Hi Steve

A splendid close-up on these impressive Keas, sadly a species we don't see too much of here.
I really like the timing of your capture here and the pose you managed to get from them :) It sure gives them character :)
The sharpness is very good and all the colors are natural and beautiful. I also think that the BG plays a very important role in this picture.
Very well done!

Bravo and TFS

Nice shot. I have seen Kea and their legendary mischiefs previously in national geographic. Good dof and the misty bg is excellent. May be showing a little more bg would have made the picture even more beautiful! Anyways, great work.

Lovely image showing their natural habitat.

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