Clowns of the mountain
Have you encountered the "clowns of the mountain" yet?
And no we're not talking about our glacier guides. The clowns we're talking about are the kea, a mountain parrot that is native to New Zealand. They're colourful characters who are well known for being mischeivious, inquisitive and intelligent.
Kea are endemic to the alpine region of the South Island of New Zealand and are perfectly evolved for life in this chilly alpine setting. You might see one on your visit to Franz Josef Glacier. You'll know if you've spotted one - they have beautiful olive green plumage as well as stunning orange feathers on the underside of their wings. Most people think kea are likable, cheeky characters. But they have not endeared themselves to everyone. They are known to vandalise cars and campervans by peeling away rubber trims. They'll steal lunch from trampers who have turned their backs. One kea even stole a Scottish tourist's passport who was on a rest stop travelling to Milford Sound. The kea flew off with the passport, never to be seen again! Kea are now listed as an endangered species, it is estimated that there are between 1000 and 5000 kea left in New Zealand. We think these cheeky mountain parrots are great Kiwi characters and we hope you get to spot one on your visit to Franz Josef Glacier.