Kea are listed as nationally endangered under the New Zealand Threat Classification System. Although kea are seen in reasonable numbers across the South Island, their number is estimated at only 1000 – 5000 birds.
Kea are related to forest kaka (nestor meridionalis) and are thought to have developed their unique characteristics during the last great ice age through their powers of curiosity searching for food in a harsh landscape. Nests are usually found among boulders in high altitude forest where the birds lay two to four eggs during the July to January breeding season.
Kea, rated as one of the world’s most intelligent birds, grow up to 50 cm in length and although mainly vegetarian, do eat insects. They are found locally in the high alpine areas above the Dart and Routeburn Falls Huts.