They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!

Gollum (the film version)

It can’t have escaped your notice that there is a film from New Zealand out today that people are quite interested in. It’s certainly inescapable here in Wellington, as you can see from this shot I took in Wellington Airport on my way to South Island last week.

My only wish, a tasty fish

Anyway, the spectacular scenery of New Zealand’s South Island does more than provide stunning wide angle shots for Peter Jackson to use in his films, it provides a home for many great species of bird (not to mention also provide some of the finest walking country in the world). One such bird that is a popular fixture of the Southern Alps, liable to be found wherever unwary tourists may have left an unattended sandwich, or for that matter, an unattended car, or even an attended car, is the Kea.

Kea (Nestor notabilis)

Kea are a species of alpine parrot endemic to New Zealand. They are famous for any number of reasons, most of which stem from their innate intelligence and curiosity. They are excellent opportunists, and have developed a taste for meat to an extent almost unrivalled in the parrot order. For many years they were persecuted by farmers for preying on sheep, but in fact they will indeed do just that if they can.

That bill isn’t just for nuts.

Kea are extremely curious birds, and investigate just about anything with their bills. This has actually turned out to be a problem where young birds have chewed on lead nails in country buildings in the vague hope they might turn aout to be edible! DOC is currently working to take the nails away from prying beaks, but Kea are famous for chewing on cars of tourists, among other things.

This wasn’t edible last time, but you never know.


This Kea is missing a foot, yet seems to cope out in the wild. Click to enbiggen.

Kea are pretty loud.

Young Kea have yellow around the eyes and the nares.

My friend Alice was very happy to see her first Kea, but this one was channeling the bored look of an owl. Alice wasn’t feeding him, he wasn’t interested. Hint – do not feed Kea. It is bad for them.

While this may look idilic, this adult was actually on their way to administer a beating to a youngster.

While Kea are hardly challenging as birds go to locate, they should remain a highlight for any visitor to New Zealand by sheer force of personality. They have certainly won over New Zealand, which regards them with a slightly bemused pride as one of the world’s most unusual parrots. So as you watch the Hobbit, and think about coming here to see the wild land in the flesh, think about the parrots that will liberate your lunch, and your wallet, while you do so. They make it that much more fun!

If you liked this post and want to see more great images of birds make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.

Written by Duncan
Duncan Wright is a Wellington-based ornithologist working on the evolution of New Zealand's birds. He's previously poked albatrosses with sticks in Hawaii, provided target practice for gulls in California, chased monkeys up and down hills Uganda, wrestled sharks in the Bahamas and played God with grasshopper genetics in Namibia. He came into studying birds rather later in life, and could quit any time he wants to.