Inspiring communities to protect kea, New Zealand's unique mountain parrot

Why Feeding Kea Is Bad For Them

Feeding wild kea interferes with their normal foraging activities and encourages them to hang around human areas for longer periods of time as they increasingly identify people with food. 

Kea predominantly forage on the fruit and leaves of plants. They also hunt and consume a range of
invertebrate and vertebrate prey (Young et al 2012, Greer et al. 2015). Finding food is a time-consuming process for kea, keeping them busy in their natural habitat.

However, kea will readily exploit novel foods made available through direct or indirect interactions
with people. This may cause local concentrations of birds in areas visited by tourists or around areas
of human habitation, resulting in further unwanted human feeding interactions.

There are several negative consequences to this change in behaviour.

  • Conflict with local communities. Kea that don’t need to spend time foraging, spend more time investigating and damaging human property. 
  • Lead poisoning. Kea that are encouraged to hang around human settlements (such as Arthur’s Pass) are also ingesting and dying from lead from flashings and nail heads on old buildings. 
  • Kea that are attracted to and focussed on novel food items in areas where humans visit, are less likely to be cautious around baits and more likely to ingest a lethal amount of toxin.
  • Ingestion of other toxic items mistaken for food such as chocolate (Gartrell & Reid 2007) and household rubbish.
  • Car strike and accidents as a result of kea scrounging for food around car parks and roadways.


Read Our No Feeding Policy