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Aspects of the ecology of Kea, Nestor notabilis (GOULD), at Arthur's Pass and Craigieburn Valley

Brejaart, Ria
Fields of Research
Where people use the habitat of kea (Nestor notabilis (Gould)), problems related to kea activity often occur. Such problems are the result of the inquisitive nature of kea and are thought to be related to the availability of anthropogenic foods. Kea were observed at two sites, Arthur's Pass Village and Craigieburn Valley Skifield. The two sites were chosen because they are in close proximity to one another, accessible all year round and problems with kea were known to have occurred at the sites. The objective of this study was to contribute guidelines for a kea-friendly habitat management. Keas were banded with metal bands and individual colour bands to allow for easy identification of individuals. Monthly visits were made to both study sites. Observations were made on activities of kea, on seasonal and diurnal changes in numbers of kea, and on movements of kea. There were marked differences between the sites, in the average number of kea seen in each month. There was a strong correlation between the availability of anthropogenic foods and numbers of kea present at Arthur's Pass. It is suggested that anthropogenic foods attract kea to Arthur's Pass. Keas at Arthur’s Pass were mostly adult males. Family groups comprised of kea of all ages and both sexes were observed throughout the year at Craigieburn. At Craigieburn age-related differences in manipulative activities were evident. Activities did not differ quantitatively between the sites, but the focus of foraging and manipulative activities differed greatly. Kea at Craigieburn fed mainly on natural foods, but this was a reflection of availability. Kea at Arthur's Pass ate almost exclusively anthropogenic foods. Likewise, manipulative behaviours were characterised by a focus on natural resources at Craigieburn, but at Arthur's Pass kea manipulate mostly human made objects. Damage to human made objects was limited at Craigieburn, but evident at Arthur's Pass. In addition, at Arthur's Pass kea suffered injury and death as a result of human activity.