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My encounter with wild Keas


My encounter with wild Keas

By Svetlana Velichko

My first encounter with keas was at an Australian zoo.  I was sheltering from the rain in a kea aviary, watching the parrots studying my opened umbrella.  The keas’ curiosity, fast learning, and interaction with their caregiver intrigued me, leading me to head to South Island, New Zealand to visit the keas’ natural environment in the Cook Mountains.

Somewhere high up, almost up as far as the snowy peaks, live small flocks of parrots.  Their behaviour is unique.  Watch them in the sky for a while and you’ll see that the birds, never alone, are always in a flock.  They always seem to be up to something exciting, calling to each other on their way - flying from one part of the mountain to the next.  They are not only in search of food, but are also on the look-out for anything new and invigorating.  Anything, or anyone, may become the object of amusement for the keas.

Having climbed up the highest tourist trail, I stared up at the sky in disappointment.  I saw nothing and hadn’t seen any keas on the way up either.  That trail was my best bet, but the skies were empty.  But fortunately, my luck changed and it was not long before graceful and majestic figures started to sail across the deep blue sky.  I was watching, in its natural environment, a flock of the smartest parrots on earth.  These birds have an IQ scientists compare to a four-year-old human child.  Keas are the only parrots living in the mountains, and these were the only mountains where the birds lived.  This was the culmination of all my dreams, or so I thought.

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