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A parrot that kills sheep?

A small parrot kaa (Nestor notabilis) inhabiting the mountains and forests of New Zealand is said to be capable of killing a whole sheep.

In general, Kea is omnivorous, they feed on adult insects and their larvae, worms, which the bird extracts from under the stones and among the ground vegetation, at a certain time of the year it feeds on the nectar of flowers and fruits. However, they do not disdain and carrion.

So can they kill a sheep?

It happens that keas in winter are fed by dead sheep, but it happens that one or two parrots from a pack attack live sheep. Parrots sit on the ground next to a potential victim, and then suddenly jump to her on the back and begin to peck at her pieces of subcutaneous fat. Sometimes the kea does not immediately get to grasp the sheep’s skin: the victim, resisting, tries to throw off the bloodthirsty bird.

It rarely happens when a sheep is still freed from the plague of kaa, most often, the animals attacked by the bird die from their wounds, and become the food of the other parrots from the pack. Few individuals can kill sheep. Only one or two old birds in the pack attack animals, the rest just use their prey.

Often, having found a fallen sheep, shepherds attribute her death to a bird. Because of this, the parrots of kea for a long time were exterminated. In fact, kea hunts sheep very rarely, and the death of sheep from the attack of predatory parrots has a very negligible percentage.

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Previously, before the arrival of Europeans, mammals in New Zealand, except for one species of rats and one species of bats, there was no. Hence, kea until this time was not known for the taste of mammalian meat. But because of the lack of other food (worms and insects), parrots began to hunt for sheep. Using their powerful claws and beaks, originally intended only for climbing the bark of trees, these birds began to tear the wounds of animals. This phenomenon is called preadaptation, when the embedded devices perform new functions.

Often, having found a fallen sheep, shepherds attribute her death to a bird. Because of this, the parrots of kea for a long time were exterminated. In fact, kea hunts sheep very rarely, and the death of sheep from the attack of predatory parrots has a very negligible percentage. In 1986, people were persuaded to stop exterminating these birds, and the kaa that have become a vanishing species today are protected.


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There are cases of “attack” kaa on people’s cars, the cause of which, again, is the desire to find something to eat in the car. In addition, parrots may be interested in the contents of a backpack of tourists traveling in the habitats of these birds. Despite this, the kea parrots still attract people who like to watch birds play, tumbling in the snow or floundering in newly thawed puddles.

Another unique feature of these birds is that kea are the only parrots that live and breed at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level.

Among zoologists there is a joke that this parrot chose its own name. In fact, he himself aloud and clearly pronounces it – hoarse “keee-aa, keee-aa, keee-aa”. It is great for recognition purposes and relieves ornithologists of the need to painfully invent a new name for the bird. True, the bird has not yet learned to pronounce its scientific name, Nestor notabilis, but, probably, it’s a matter of time.


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Kea is widely known as the most intelligent bird in the world. However, kea is not only intellectual. He is incredibly charismatic, curious, bold, ruthless and rash. And this is one of the few big birds in New Zealand that did not forget how to fly.

If you want to see kea, go to a crowded place. They can usually be seen at ski resorts, alpine picnic sites and car parks, in part because they find an easy source of simple food there, and partly because it is there that they can be naughty.


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Open windows, trunk lids and backpacks are an endless source of pleasure for them. They take away any inadvertently abandoned garments or jewelry and hide them in the crevices of the rocks, where they are sorted by size so thoroughly that it’s hard to believe that they do not suffer from an obsessive passion for disorder.

You will not be able to take kaa on the plane as a carry-on bag, because his beak can be considered a dangerous weapon. It looks like a cross between a pair of pliers, a screwdriver and a can opener, it’s incredibly powerful, and kea perfectly controls it. And kea has claws similar to the beak.


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So, perhaps, there is nothing surprising in the fact that keAs become excellent car thieves. They, of course, do not steal cars themselves, but only because they can not reach the pedals. Instead, they steal car parts: especially the great experience they have with removing rubber “janitors” and door locks. They do it with such skill and regularity that it’s hard not to imagine how they are hoarding the parts somewhere high in the mountains and then collecting their hybrid cars from them. Several tires and a side mirror – and it’s done …

They can open any container. A popular pastime among people living in the wildest parts of New Zealand, where there is almost nothing to do, is the invention of a container that koa can not be opened. Needless to say, no one has so far failed, so it is clear: this is an occupation that will provide people with hard work for many years to come.


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Another favorite place of mischievous kaa is the resort houses. They look out for careless skiers who leave the doors or windows open, then dive in and tear off all the mats, mattresses and pillows. They themselves also enjoy skiing, using the steep roofs of the chalet as a ski slope.

In one such ski chalet the crew of the Kea left the sentry at the main entrance. Every time someone was about to leave, the sentry signaled to others, and the birds began to drop snow from the roof above the door. As a result, the skier was showered with snow from head to foot, and all the keas rolled and cackled.


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“We went to look at the kea on the parking lot in front of the entrance to the 1.3-kilometer Homer tunnel. As soon as we stopped, a few surprisingly large birds surrounded our car, exactly the same beggars that obsessively offer to wash the windshield, you only need to stop at the traffic lights.

Just like adrenaline hunters in nearby Queenston, keas in the car park did not stop. Watching and shoving, dodging and diving, they behaved like mad magpies, pumped up with steroids. One kea even dived twice to the windshield of a nearby car.

They were magnificent birds, mostly brown-green, with bright flashes of red, yellow and orange feathers. They conquered at first sight.

After watching the birds for a while, we were amazed at the fact that only a couple of them really did behave badly. They hooliganed, while others looked at them from a safe distance and pitted them to disgrace.

One of the hooligans stole the baseball cap of the passenger of the bright red Vauxhall Astra, and while the legal owner of the cap, his wife and daughter chased him across the parking lot, the remaining kaa switched to another object. If they could, with a leg tossed over their legs, spit through their teeth or blithely whistle, they would not do it. They were as ugly and innocent as they were, as if the young tombs had been caught smoking behind a bicycle shed.

The thief, meanwhile, perched on a high rock with a baseball cap in his beak, looking at the pursuers with that contemptuous look that seemed to say: “Well, what will you do now?” ” 
An excerpt from Wild and rare: the last chance to see them” . Stephen Fry and Mark Carvardine (2009)


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By the way, kea is the only species of parrots living high in the mountains. For reproduction, they prefer a height of 1.5 thousand meters above sea level. Inhabit the beech forests, forest valleys and alpine meadows, not forgetting to visit human habitation, especially annoying tourists in hotels, camping sites and ski lodges.


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But to feed kaa in national parks is strictly prohibited. And not because they sit on a special diet, just getting used to getting food from the hands of tourists, they consider it their property and can easily attack a disgraced eater who dared to eat a sandwich in their presence. In the wild they feed on plants, insects and nectar flowers. In a hungry time they can eat fallen sheep and even attack the living.

Evaluating chances of cleaning a backpack


Today kea is a favorite sight of tourists who forgive them for even torn tents and bored car tires. Like children who are rasolilivshie, parrots swim in the public eye, inventing in the fun of the public all the new tricks.




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