New home for kea at Hellabrunn Zoo

The four kea at Hellabrunn have moved into a new, larger aviary at the zoo. The two couples moved in last week and are now enjoying their new home. Situated on the site of the former puma enclosure, the space has been redesigned for the kea, with much to discover for the alpine parrots.

Copyright: Marc Müller

Copyright: Marc Müller

Copyright: Marc Müller

The kea is a highly intelligent parrot species, native to the alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. They are also known to be very playful and curious: while their olive-green plumage constitutes an unremarkable exterior, this makes their character all the more remarkable. 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 – hardly anything escapes the attention of these cheeky birds, who not only use their beak to pry things apart, but can also use tools. It is therefore all the more important to provide adequate enrichment for kea living in zoos. Since kea are more adept at climbing than most birds, and tend to climb more than fly, the interior has been converted into a climbing playground. The new aviary features a number of climbing facilities such as ropes and hanging feeders on which the birds can balance.

Naturally, there is enough room inside the aviary for them to fly. In flight, kea display their brilliant orange feathers normally hidden on the undersides of their wings. Kea 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 kea at Hellabrunn have yet to produce offspring, but it would be a great delight for the zoo if either of the two pairs starts breeding in their new home. However, unlike most bird species that build their nests high in the treetops, kea tend to dig long cavities to lay and hatch their eggs. Nests hidden in this way may be hard to spot by a zookeeper. The zoo has therefore installed special nesting cavities inside the new aviary, which can be viewed by the keeper.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the kea is listed as vulnerable. Hellabrunn Zoo has therefore decided to support the Kea Conservation Trust in New Zealand with a donation. The trust assists in the conservation of wild kea in their natural habitat and also aims to increase husbandry standards for kea in zoos. For birds living in the natural habitat, the Kea Conservation Trust conducts population studies and nest monitoring in several national parks in New Zealand. The trust has also joined forces with other conservation groups in New Zealand to launch the Citizen Science Project, a community project that invites the public to register their sightings of the ringed kea online via a conservation website.