New aviary for keas at Hellabrunn Zoo

After a long period away from the public eye due to renovation work, there was great excitement among visitors about the return of the keas as they moved into their new home a few weeks ago.

The kea is a species of parrot that is only found in the alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. While their olive-green plumage constitutes an unremarkable exterior, this makes their character all the more remarkable: kea are incredibly intelligent, playful, and curious. Their curiosity often leads them to investigate tourist backpacks, play with car antennas or peck away at exposed rubber car parts such as windscreen wipers. In addition to their main diet comprising various plant species and small animals, kea are also known to occasionally attack living sheep by pecking holes near the sheep’s kidney to savour the nutritious fat beneath. This predatory behaviour has earned them a reputation as sheep killers. The resulting backlash has led to a massive decline in the population in New Zealand, where they are still being hunted by farmers.

The keas living at Hellabrunn Zoo have now moved into their new aviary, which lies in the immediate vicinity of the Przewalski horses’ enclosure. Formerly home to the common raven, the aviary was redesigned to suit the unique bhaviour of the Kea: Because they are more of a climbing than flying bird, the interior has been converted into a climbing playground. The new aviary features climbing facilities, tree branches for resting and pecking, a water basin for the summer months and plenty of enrichment to ensure the birds stay active and engaged. Outside the aviary is a small wooden bench for visitors to watch these exciting, agile birds. Keas are quite hardy birds and thus able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures, enabling them to remain in their outdoor aviary all year round.

The keas at Hellabrunn have yet to produce offspring, but the zoo would be delighted if the female kea and her three male companions eventually breed. However, if this were to happen, it would require the keen eye of a zookeeper to discover the nest, because keas tend to dig long cavities or use narrow rock crevices to hatch their eggs.