Kea and Fat
Kea need to obtain fats to survive in its harsh alpine environment. To this end Kea are known to visit the rookeries of coastal birds, robbing their nests of eggs or young chicks. While this sounds sinister, it is all part of the Kea's survival techniques, and has been going on for thousands of years. In the past it is thought that Kea may once have attacked the huge Moa for its fat resources.
The Kea is very intelligent, and therefore can adapt quickly to environmental change. It is an opportunist, therefore conflicts as those mentioned below is not surprising.
Kea and High Country Farmers
Kea once had a bounty on their heads, this causing a massive decline in the numbers of the species, and the contraction of their natural range back into the high alpine zones of New Zealands South Island. More than 150,000 were killed in the hundred years before 1970, when the bounty was lifted.
The original reason for the bounty was that it was discovered that Kea were killing sheep on the high country stations. The Kea had unwittingly caused the death of sheep through their insatiable appetite for fat. The Kea would peck at the sheep's flesh in the vicinity of its kidneys (a very fatty area) to obtain its feed of fat, this in itself did not kill the sheep, however infection would set in, eventually killing the sheep. It is theorised that this behaviour may have originated with Kea attacking the now extinct Moa for similar reasons.
Modern management of a sheep station means that sheep are treated with antibiotics, and are more immune to infection. The Kea's range is also now so reduced that conflicts are less likely.
Kea are known for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital traits for survival in the harsh mountain environment that is their home. Kea can solve logical puzzles, such as pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get to food, and will work together (collective intelligence) to achieve a certain objective. Kea have also been known to use "tools" to achieve results. Kea have been fashioning "sticks" to trigger multiple stoat traps in Fiordland and Arthur's Pass National Park, this behaviour appears to have been independently arrived at (See this News Article & Video).
Kea have also been shown to be very adaptive in their problem solving skills, they will actively seek new ways to improve upon or speed up the solutions to any particular puzzle. Kea will also teach behaviour learnt to other Kea very rapidly.
For more information visit the Kea Conservation Trust.
Kea Photographic Book by Corey Mosen...