Why New Zealand has more parrots than you’d think
When you think of a parrot, the typical image that might come to mind is probably the bright green, red, and blue plumage of a rainforest bird. While those are certainly popular parrots, here in New Zealand we have our own group of cheeky birds.
Here are a handful of the parrots that call New Zealand home.
The kea is an incredibly smart, extremely cheeky bird that is also the only alpine parrot in the world, which is why it’s also sometimes known as the mountain parrot. You’ll most commonly see them around ski fields up and down the South Island, where they love to steal food and loose objects from unsuspecting skiers. They are even well known for pulling parts off cars.
The kea’s olive green plumage and bright red-orange feathers under the wings make it an instantly recognisable parrot in the region. There are an estimated 1,000-5,000 kea left in New Zealand, which means they are a protected species.
The red-crowned kakariki (or parakeet) is another of New Zealand’s very special parrots, and actually looks a lot like the tropical bird you might imagine when you think of a parrot. With bright green feathers, blue-grey wing tips and a burst of red at its crown, this beautiful bird is a treasure amongst a country of fantastic feathered fauna.
They tend to nest in tree holes and live on a diet of berries, fruits, seeds and insects, and while they were common on the mainland in the past, are now only usually seen in predator-free zones on off-shore islands. As they are so rare, the Department of Conservation issues breeding permits for these parrots, and such captive breeding programs have been a huge help in preserving the survival of this species.
New Zealand’s Kaka belongs to the same family as the kea, but is found all around the country, although sightings can be rare with an estimated 1,000 – 5,000 birds. As such, they are classified as nationally vulnerable.
Much like the kea, the kaka are considered a cheeky, boisterous species. They’re known for gathering in groups in the mornings and evenings and creating something of a racket. They’re a precious commodity in forests where they play an important role in pollinating flowers as they go about eating berries, seeds, and nectar from a number of plant species. To spot the kaka, look for a large brown parrot with a greyish crown and a splash of red on the wing.
If you’d like to see something truly special, take a look at the Wellington City Council’s like ‘Kaka Cam’, where you can see a family of kaka in their nest!
The antipodes parrot
The antipodes parrot is something truly special – and you’re not likely to find it anywhere in the wild in the country. That’s because while it technically belongs to New Zealand, the antipodes parrot is endemic only to the Antipodes islands, which are a small, inhospitable volcanic landmasses in the subantarctic waters to the south of the country.
The parrot itself if a bright, uniform green, and it’s estimated that there are roughly 2,000 – 3,000 of them in existence. The area is a nature reserve and restricts human visitation, so these birds remain blissfully unthreatened by pests. It’s most likely you’ll only see one in a zoo, such as the Hamilton Zoo to the south of Auckland.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist