Three Places to Spy The Famously Cheeky New Zealand Kea

Three Places to Spy The Famously Cheeky New Zealand KeaExplorer Charlie Douglas wrote of New Zealand kea, “For curiosity and impudence the kea takes the record among all the feathered creation…”

These smart, playful and frequently fiendish alpine parrots are a popular sighting amongst the mountains of the South Island…despite their destructive tendencies.

Kea often supplement their traditional diet of bugs and berries with windscreen rubber, loose clothing and brightly-coloured objects. When it comes to food, kea are fiercely determined, and stealing from bags and vehicles is well within their capabilities.

Unfortunately, kea aren’t popular with everyone. Kea attacks on sheep led to the initiation of a legal government bounty in the late 1860s, and up until the early 1970s around 150,000 kea were killed. Today, kea are a protected species and while exact numbers are unknown, estimates suggest that fewer than 5,000 exist across an area of 3.5 million hectares.

Kea only live in the South Island, most commonly in and around alpine areas. They are frequently sighted at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, and in Arthur’s Pass National Park. When kea are around, keep a close eye on your belongings, and don’t be tempted to feed them.

Our upcoming 15 Day Southern Alps Road Tour offers numerous opportunities to watch kea in action, with stops in Arthur’s Pass National Park, and the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Other highlights include cycling the scenic west coast road, a night on a working merino sheep station, and a day in vibrant Queenstown. This tour gets underway on 13 December in Christchurch. Read more here, or get in touch to reserve your place.

Have a good week,

P.S. While you’re searching for kea, you might also want to keep an eye out for the South Island Kōkako. This ancient bird was listed as extinct until 2013, when credible sightings prompted it to be reclassified. A $10,000 reward is on offer for anyone who can confirm the bird is still alive. Find out more here.

Image: Andrea Schaffer