Did you encounter this cheeky little character when you visited Franz Josef Glacier? This is the kea, a stunning mountain parrot found in the chilly alpine landscapes of the South Island of New Zealand, including Westland’s glacier country.
The kea is famous (and infamous) for its inquisitive, confident nature and is known for its fondness for eating cars…eating cars? Yep, that’s right, these mischievous birds can often be found munching on the rubber lining of car doors or chewing on an antenna or two! But before you get too grouchy with that kea devouring your car, take a moment to appreciate why they behave this way.
The kea is a species perfectly evolved for living in the harsh alpine landscape of New Zealand. Over millions of years, kea developed their trademark curiosity and inquisitiveness to enable them to source new food sources in a challenging landscape. Perfect for life amongst the Franz Josef landscape.
The kea is a parrot endemic to New Zealand and has been touted as one of the most intelligent birds in the world. If you meet one, you’ll realise why! Kea are experts at outsmarting unsuspecting tourists out of their picnic lunch! The kea’s wayward behaviour has gotten them into trouble in the past, and in years gone by kea were hunted by Maori and also by farmers who believed they killed sheep and lambs. These days, the birds are protected as their numbers are estimated to be between 1,000 and 5,000. The Department of Conversation has a lot of great info on the birds if you want to learn more.
So next time you’re hiking Franz Josef Glacier or visiting the glacier valley, keep an eye out for the cheeky green parrot, kea. A kea has probably spotted you and your lunch long before you spotted it!
And if you don't believe just how cheeky kea can be, check out this clip.....