Michael Palin presents the kea from a windswept mountain in New Zealand
Michael Palin presents the kea from a windswept mountain in New Zealand. A a snow-capped mountain in New Zealand's South Island are not a place where you'd expect to find a parrot, least of all a carnivorous one (and with a penchant for rubber). But this is the home of the kea.
Keas are curious birds in every sense of the word. Drab greenish brown, they're the world's only Alpine parrot. When they can find them, keas eat fruits and berries, but also, especially in winter they descend from the higher slopes and scavenge on animal carcasses at rubbish dumps, cracking bones with their sharp beaks to reach the marrow. They will even attack live sheep, stripping the fat from their backs and damaging vital organs. Although this habit is rare and is now understood to be largely restricted to injured sheep, it led to widespread persecution of the birds and a bounty was paid on the head of each bird killed which led to widespread declines so that keas became endangered.
Today Keas are legally protected. In their mountain homes, the parrots survive to entertain and exasperate tourists as they clamber over cars, strip rubber seals from windscreens and remove wiper-blades ... curious birds indeed.