Nestor notabilis Gould, 1856, South Island, New Zealand. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Nestor Kйa; German: Kea; Spanish: Kea.
15 in (38 cm); 1.2–1.9 lb (600–960 g). Large bird with dull brown plumage; long, pointed bill.
South Island, New Zealand.
Mountains; steep-sided wooded valleys and Nothofagus forest bordering subalpine scrublands, seasonally visiting scrublands and alpine grasslands; occurs commonly in and around human
ion, notably at ski lodges, tourist hotels, and camping grounds.
Resident, with local altitudinal movements for seasonally available foods; juveniles more mobile than adults; strong fliers, noisy, conspicuous flocks often circling high above mountain valleys, especially in strong winds preceding storm. Tame and highly inquisitive around human habitation, sometimes causing damage to parked cars and tents or cabins when searching for food scraps; attracted to refuse tips and rubbish receptacles, often spilling contents; playful, enjoying rolling in snow or bathing in recently thawed puddles; in summer, regularly active at night.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Forages in trees or shrubs and on the ground; varied diet includes leaf buds, roots, berries, fruits, seeds, blossoms, nectar, and insects. Favored foods include Podocarpus and Coprosma fruits and nectar from mountain flax Phormium colensoi; comes to sheep carcasses or drying skins to feed on fat or decaying flesh and to extract marrow from bones; possibly attacks defenseless, weak, or sick sheep; regularly scavenges for food scraps in refuse tips or rubbish receptacles.
Breeds mainly July–December, but recorded at other times. Monogamous and apparently at times polygynous; solitary pairs faithful to traditional nest-sites established over number of years and reused annually; also record of one dominant male attached to up to four females. Breeding birds seldom move far from nest-site throughout the year, but not strongly territorial. Nest in crevice under rocks, among roots or trees, or in log lying on the ground; clutch two to four eggs incubated by female for 21–28 days; chicks leave nest some 13 weeks after hatching.
Vulnerable. Formerly persecuted because of alleged killing of sheep, causing decline in numbers and fragmentation of population; now fully protected. In 1990s estimates of total population highly variable, between 1,000 and 5,000 or up to 15,000, with concentrations around human habitation possibly giving false counts. Listed on CITES Appendix II.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
For more than a century persecuted as killer of sheep and, despite little supporting evidence, bounty paid to farmers; almost 7,000 birds killed in three years, 1943–46. Now fully protected and, although responsible for damage to vehicles and property, birds popular with tourists because of tameness.
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