Kea for Kids
The information on this page can be adapted for any age group - younger children (primary and intermediate school levels) will need support from older brothers, sisters, parents or teachers to go through the information and activities. Older secondary age youth will be able to get really creative with each of the activities. And, if you need any help, just ask us!
Also check out this short video from Bindy Irwin talking about what it means to be a Wildlife Warrior and the issues impacting on all wildlife today.
Thanks to the following funders for supporting development of our education material:
Canterbury Community Trust
The Lion Foundation
Auckand Zoo Conservation Fund
What do kea look like?
What do kea sound like?
Although kea are not generally known to "talk" like some other parrots (particularly the African Grey Parrot), they have a wide range of sounds that they make, depending on what message they want to get across to each other. Here is a sample of kea sounds for you to listen to.
More Kea Squeals
Q. What do you think they might be saying to each other? Why would they need to be able to talk to each other?
How clever are kea?
Kea are thought to be VERY clever! Some scientists even think that they might be as smart as a 4 year old child! Thats pretty smart.
There are researchers around the world that are doing some great fun experiments that kea really enjoy doing - let's take a look at them and then YOU can decide how clever kea really are....
Where do kea live?
Wild kea exist only in the South Island of New Zealand in and around the alpine areas. They nest in the beech forests at sea level on the West Coast of the South Island, in the mountain forests along the Southern Alps (as far north as Kahurangi National Park and as far south as Fiordland) and are also in the mountains as far east as Kaikoura.
Kea which have formed pair bonds ( breeding male and female) hold a territory (an area for themselves that no other kea pairs can live in - a bit like peoples homes and property the house sits on) of about 4kms2. If you stand at the bottom of a mountain range, you will see 'spurs' coming down the mountain with valleys on either side. A kea pairs 'home' territory will be the entire spur. They will share it with their chicks each year as well as sub-adult and adult males who may come through to visit for a while.
Q. In many areas much of the beech forests have been burned for human settlement. How do you think this might have affected the kea?
Kea are a solid parrot about 46cm long (about the size of a cat sitting up). They have a wingspan of about 1 metre when they are in flight.
Q. How far can you stretch your arms out? (Are they a metre wide from fingertip to fingertip or are they wider?).
Kea are the heavy weights of our flighted terrestrial (those that live on land) birds. Males range from 750g- 1kg and females are slightly lighter at 700g - 850grams. That's about the weight of a domestic bantam (very small breed) chicken. The shape and weight of kea ensures they dont lose heat too quickly when up in the freezing mountains - so they are very well adapted to the cold alpine environment.
Q. Who gets colder quicker? Your short skinny friend or your short stocky friend? Why?
How can you tell kea apart?
It is very difficult to tell males and females apart by sight alone, but generally males are larger than females with males also having a longer curved beak. Researchers also take the weights of kea as well as measure the length of the beak and the length of the head (from the nostrils to the back of the skull). To be absolutely certain, a DNA sample can be taken (a feather or two or a small blood sample).
The difference between young (juvenile) and adult kea is much more obvious. Very young kea that have just left the nest have a pale feathers on the top of their head and very bright yellow colouring around the eyes, nostrils (cere) and top of the beak (the pale head plumage can be clearly seen by other kea in the UV spectrum). As the kea get older, the yellow slowly disappears and the head feathers darken. An adult kea (4 years+) has dark colouration around the eyes, nostrils and beak.
Q. Look at all the photos of kea on this page and on other pages in this website. Can you tell how hold each of the kea are?
Kea can breed each year and are generally thought to mate for life. The female will usually lay a single clutch of eggs per year of 2-5 eggs in a burrow deep in the ground under a beech trees roots or large rock outcrop. If her eggs are eaten by possums or stoats (introduced predators), the female may lay another clutch of eggs if not too late in the season. The male and female line the nest with feathers, soft wood chips and dry moss and lichen to protect the eggs and keep them warm.
The female sits on (incubates) the eggs for 1 month during the winter/spring and is fed by the male during this period. When the eggs hatch the male will then have to find more food for both the female and the chicks (as well as himself!). This can be very hard work particularly if it is snowing hard outside. Once the chicks are able to keep warm by themselves, the mother will also join the search for food to feed them.
Eggs are normally laid from July - October and the eggs hatch out after 4 weeks. The chicks will then leave the nest about 12 weeks later.
Q. What happens if a female lays her eggs very late in the season (January or February)? Will this affect the chicks ability to survive? If so, why?
Lifecycle - from birth to death (and everything in between)
1. The family: Pair bonded kea (male and female pairs) start breeding from 4+ years of age. Any chicks they have each year are helpless when they hatch and have a very long juvenile period (like humans!) where they rely on their parents for food and warmth for at least 6months. At this stage they are a family unit - mother, father and brothers and sisters.
2. The gang: Once kea leave the nest they move in with their friends and other adults who dont have their own families yet. They spend the 1st couple of years flying around investigating new places, learning how to survive, socialising with each other and learning how to be real kea.
3. Finding a mate and a home: At about 3-4 years of age, male and female kea start pairing up and finding their own place to live. Female kea start becoming very cryptic (very difficult to see and find) and are not as social as their male partners. They start the process of building nests and mating but may not have chicks for another year or two. If one of the pair dies, the other partner will hopefully find another partner and start the process again.
Kea have been known to live for over 30 years in the wild and over 50 years in captivity!
Q. Why is there such a difference in the age of wild versus captive kea? Do you think that the same idea applies to other animals (including us)?
What do kea eat?
Kea eat over 200 different types of food! Kea are omnivores (just like people) which means they eat both plants and animals.
Q. How many different foods do you eat?
To find out more about the following fun activities, see our new Kids Kea Conservation DVD (link to be uploaded) - very kindly funded by the Lion Foundation.
4. Art for kea
Make a short video (up to 5 minutes long) telling others about how great kea are, the keas issues and what your audience can do to help kea out.
Your video will help people understand more about kea, why they should be protected and will also inspire them to take at least one action to help kea in the wild
The Process! Its not hard to make a video but you need to be prepared. Heres some tips from the experts:
Video camera, microphone (may be built into your camera), a storyline (the plan for your video - how it will be set out and who will do what), a script (what you will say or write).
Yourself, any friends, classmates - any adults to help out ( your parents or grandparents, an older brother or sister, your teacher, scout leader etc), any people you wish to interview.
Will your video storyline be narrated or text, will it take the form of an interview, news item, a soap opera, drama or documentary etc (watch some different types of programme on tv to help you make your decision).
What is it that you want your video to do? Do you want it to show others everything about kea and their lives in the wild (what they look like, how they live together, and where they live), or do you want to tell others about a particular issue impacting on kea (kea getting hit by cars, don't feed kea, kea getting into trouble with sheep, possums and stoats hurting kea). You could also tell people how clever kea are and why people love them!
Questions are great way to get people thinking. Will you ask your viewers questions (and then help them to answer the questions) or will you ask the people you are interviewing (you can do both!). Write a list of questions that you would like to ask (eg. How can you tell the difference between a kea and a kaka? How can you tell kea are clever? Where do kea find lead and does it hurt them? What is a bounty and why did kea have one? etc).
Kea need your help to survive; People can help kea by taking lead out of their houses and huts; Kea are fun and clever; People shouldnt hurt kea etc
Tell others about how great kea are; help support the Kea Conservation Trusts work; make the keas environment safe; do one of the 6 activities on this webpage!
And remember - have fun and be creative!
For some inspiration, check out our Kids Kea Conservation DVD and check out what the children from Aoraki, Mt Cook school have been up to! (this file will be uploaded by December 2012).
Take action to protect kea from the 3 P’s:
PREDATORS, PEOPLE and POISONS
To help protect kea and raise awareness of what is hurting kea in particular areas
i)if you live in areas where kea are: find a parent/teacher who is happy to help and identify one of the following 3 P’s hurting kea (predation, people, poisons):
• Predation – e.g possums – Q. are there possums or stoats in your area? (How would you find out? What can be done to manage them? Is the method used to control pests safe for kea? What are the issues for kea if you don’t control possums and stoats?)
Outcome – ID the main pest issues and show methods they can be controlled, identify any risks to kea and find ways to reduce these; develop a pest control programme in your area (is there one already which can be extended to help kea?)
• People – e.g people hurting kea – Q. do people in your area all like kea? If not why not? Are there ways to reduce conflict between kea and people?
• Poisons – e.g Lead – Q. are there old buildings which might have lead in them? If yes, how can you check whether they do have lead (eg get home owners and those responsible for the buildings (eg. DOC, Landcare etc) to check). How can all the lead be removed (who will do it)? What materials would you replace the lead nail heads and flashings with and where do you get it?
Outcome – make a list of buildings with lead in, a list of people (adults) who will remove it and a list of companies who will donate building materials and/or their labour.
ii) if you don’t live in an area where kea live – you could either find an area in the South Island where kea do live and choose one of the items above or develop your own action advocacy group to raise awareness of kea in your own community!
Design a puzzle that is challenging for kea
Kea are very clever and living in captivity can be very boring if they dont have enough fun stuff to do. Imagine living in a bare room with no books or toys for your whole life/ Desiging a kea puzzle that intersts kea will challeng them and challenge you!
Find out what other puzzles have been made for kea. Think about what sort of tools kea have (brain, beak and feet) to help them work out your puzzle. Think about what materials your puzzle could be made out (must be indestructible!).
Q. Think about how and what many childrens toys are made of - would you let your little brother or sister play with it?
Q. What things do you like to look at, smell, touch and taste?
Q. What challenges do kea have in the wild? What would they normally find in their environment and what do they do with it (and why)?
Outcome – make up a dummy model of your puzzle (dosnt have to be life size or with materials that are kea proof) and write about how it works and what it aims to do. How is it interesting for kea?
Draw, paint or make a sculpture about kea (kea themselves, their environment or issues threatening them)
To help other people understand kea and the threats they face.
Be creative and use any medium you like! Talk to your art teacher or any creative parents who can lend a hand.
Outcome – a beautiful finished piece of art which tells a story about kea.
Check out what the kids at Aoraki Mt Cook school have been creating!
Kea in New Zealand zoos must now be kept in excellent conditions. To check that they are being held properly, kea enclosures are now audited by Department of Conservation. Many zoos are still not up to standard but are trying their best to keep therir kea healthy.
Are kea in your local zoo being held in good conditions?
Kea are smart and need an interesting place to live to keep happy and healthy.
We will be loading an easy kids kea audit document so you can do your own kea audit!
Outcome – a kea audit is completed and your comments written onto the sheet afterwards.
Design and make a double sided brochure or poster on kea conservation. This could be for handing out to your friends and family or for a design to be put up at a kea enclosure at your local zoo!
The only way that we can really make a difference in the way people think about kea is to tell them all about kea and their issues.You can choose to make a brochure on threats to kea (the 3P's), ways to minimise conflict with people or a brochure to teach others all about our special alpine parrot. The topics are endless!
Find out all you can about kea while thinking about what you would like to put into the brochure (facts about kea, issues they face, what people can do, where to go if people want to find out more etc); design the art work on your brochure making sure it is aimed at your ‘audience’ (are you making this for other children (if so what age group?) or adults?); find lots of pictures on the website to put into your brochure. Remember, sometimes less is more!
Outcome – a lovely brochure or poster about kea with clear and directed messages.
Kids kea T-shirts: Get your parents to visit our T-shirt shop page and get a kea T-shirt today! Choose your design, your T-shirt colour and your size, pay online and it will be delivered straight to your door.
Books for all ages: Kaha the Kea and Beak of the Moon are two great books for children (and adults!). These can be ordered through our Kea Shop page.
Become a kea explorer and help kea!
The Kea Explorers are the Kea Conservation Trusts youngest members helping and learning all about kea. If you would like to find out more visit our Kea Explorers page and become a member today!