One of the most delightful sounds we can think of is the song of a bird. Perhaps this is why the chirping makes ro one of the most used alarm sounds. Spotting a beautiful bird is even better – the bird being rare only adds to the excitement. Such is the case with New Zealand’s Kea bird, the only alpine parrot species living today.
Scientifically known as nestor notabilis, the Kea is most commonly found in the alpine regions of South islands in New Zealand, although they have also been spotted in coastal regions. The bird belongs to the large parrot family, and the average length of members can be 46-50 centimeters. Pleasingly olive-green in color, the birds have scarlet underwings. They have a large, narrow and curved gray-brown upper beak. The yellow cares and eyelids mature into gray as the birds grow up. The ladies of this species are smaller than the gentlemen, especially when it comes to their beaks. Both the males and females love eating roots, leaves, berries, nectar, carrion, and a selection of palatable bugs. Yum? Eh.
Before we proceed to break the bad news, let us remind ourselves of some witty things these members of the alpine parrot family have done. A kea bird once locked a mountaineer in a bathroom; once a member of the species was found in a tug of war with a kitty over a rabbit carcass; a kea bird learnt to open a tap of water, and some kea birds can use touchscreen.
Are you falling in love yet?
Unfortunately for us, and for the birds, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Keas in the last few years. Hunting, poaching, pollution and environmental imbalance are only some of the reasons this alpine parrot is disappearing A major cause that stands out are predators and their desire to hunt Kea birds. But getting rid of predators is another problem – Poison 1080, which was intended to kill predators of the bird, ended up killing the bird itself.
Only 3000 to 7000 Keas are now recorded to be existing, which makes them nationally endangered.
The year 1986 was the time when Keas received protection under the Wildlife Act. The Kea Conservation Trust was then founded in 2006 to protect the chirpies.
Needless to say, our alpine parrot friends are the most lively birds. One of the reasons is that they seek out humans. But not all humans understand the true rarity of the only alpine parrots. Their feelings are mixed – Kea continues to be one of the most maligned of New Zealand birds, as well as one of its most loved. One of the most interesting things about the only alpine parrot species is that it is one of the few wild species that seeks out humans. That is really rare, and it is that inquisitive nature that is getting the birds into trouble, because a lot of the ways humans interact with them is endangering their survival. If you’re wondering what this means, humans love feeding Kea birds human food, and are popular across the universe for littering leftovers which can eventually be eaten by the bird, and prove fatal.
However, a little hope goes a long way. There are major steps taken for the protection of Kea birds, and if followed passionately, they will lead to the conservation of the species. Conservation remains important for many reasons, but the natural balance of the ecosystem leads the race. Many New Zealanders have now come forward to nominate the only alpine parrots as the national bird of the country!
Should the Kea parrot become New Zealand’s national bird? Tell us in the comments below!