Kea are endemic to the South Island of New Zealand and are closely associated with mountain beech and lowland podocarp forests. Their range extends approximately 3.5 million hectares from the far north-western forests in Kahurangi National Park and Abel Tasman to the far south-western reaches of Fiordland. Although they are generally found in the west and central areas of the Southern Alps, kea are also found in the Kaikoura Mountains located on the eastern coast of the South Island.
Their environment is extreme and extensive and although they are predominately associated with lowland and mountain forests, they are also found foraging in high altitude alpine meadows and scree slopes. Strong flyers, they are often seen catching the mountain thermals and flying across the tops of snow covered peaks over 2,000 metres high.