Get to know the Kea Parrot
Updated: Sep 28
One of our missions as a brand is to help raise awareness for threatened species and to educate on how we can help change the outcome for animals in need. Our Heritage Collection released in the Fall of 2020 pays homage to a few notable species - and in this article we’re going to explore the inspiration behind the Kea Teddy bag by White Rhino.
And so without further ado - Please meet the famous Kea Parrot of New Zealand.
The Kea Parrot is a species of bird known for its sassy demeanor and beautiful feathers. Tourists from far and wide travel to NZ to witness the birds’ entertaining and funny personality, making the Kea Parrot important for tourism within New Zealand. While this bird is a huge draw for entertainment, the Kea Parrot has also fallen on hard times recently and is considered an endangered species. This parrot is a key part of southern New Zealand’s ecosystem and worthy of support from people all over the world.
Kea Parrot Qualities
The Kea Parrot is known for being the only alpine parrot in the world, meaning it resides in the mountainous territory of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. It is known for its large and in charge “KEA-AAA” cry, and has olive green feathers with multicolored feathers under their wings. In 2017, the Kea Parrot was voted Bird of the Year by New Zealanders, the standout among 168 other bird species. What makes the Kea Parrot adorable and interesting is the bird’s inquisitive nature - they’re known for approaching people and interacting, sometimes acting silly or curious.
Kea’s are certainly the class clowns of Southern NZ. Aside from their interactions with humans, Kea’s communicate with each other and are often seen in groups of 10 hanging out. They are monogamous creatures and form long-term pairings. Keas are also omnivores, eating plant and animal matter like fruits, leaves, and larvae. These birds are curious creatures and will come up and play if given the chance. Unfortunately, this curiosity has resulted in humans seeing them as a nuisance, resulting in dangerous situations for the Kea Parrot species.
Threats to the Species
There are a few major threats to the Kea Parrot, one of the major threats being humans. Keas were seen by farmers as an annoyance, resulting in many of them being shot and killed prior to 1976, when poaching the Kea bird became illegal. While this practice was banned, humans still pose a threat in other ways such as lead poisoning. Shacks in the southern Alps built with lead paint attract the Keas due to the sweet taste of lead. Lead has permeated into different areas through items like lead nails and tire weights. The hungry Kea Parrots unknowingly consume the lead thinking it’s a treat and then suffer from poisoning. Another way humans harm the Kea species is by setting traps for other creatures and accidentally snagging Kea Parrots instead.
Aside from human dangers, there are also invasive species that harm Keas such as opossums, cats, and rats. These animals attack Kea nests and often times steal the Kea’s food supply. These animals are able to access the Kea Parrot dwelling since Keas nest below the tree line as well as ground recesses or rock crevices. This becomes a significant problem when Keas are raising their young, as the baby Keas are a vulnerable population.
With an estimated 3000-6000 Kea left in New Zealand, conservation efforts have been great to bring this parrot population back to what it was. Kea conservation teams across NZ use Aerial 1080 to control invasive species populations and protect the Kea Parrots from being hunted. They also monitor the populations for any changes within the Kea communities and act accordingly. When humans encounter the Kea Parrot, it is recommended to leave the bird alone but to take photos and spread awareness. If humans are interacting with Keas who have become a nuisance, conservators advise to not harm the bird as it is illegal. There are helplines to call for when Keas become a problem so they can be relocated.
The Kea bird is a gorgeous animal whose population is dwindling. It is imperative we do our part to save this bird from extinction, and there’s a few ways you can help. Donate, educate others about the bird, and check out the following organizations to see what other actions you can take:
Department of Conservation: https://www.doc.govt.nz/
The Kea Conservation Trust: https://www.keaconservation.co.nz/
We hope you enjoyed learning about the Kea Parrot!
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Watch these great videos for even more on the Kea Parrot;