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Population Surveys

Funded by the NZ Lottery Grants Board and DOC

The Kea Conservation Trust has been running kea population surveys each year since 2009. These surveys are run in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Each site has a minimum of 3 years of data collected. Survey sites are located at Nelson Lakes (2009 - 2011), Kiwi Saddle - Kahurangi National Park (2011 - 2014), the Hawdon Valley - Arthur's Pass (2009 - 2012 and 2017), the Borland Range - Fiordland (2009 - 2010,2012), Kowhai Saddle - Kaikoura Mountains (2014) and the Matukituki Valleys - Mt Aspiring NP (2016 - 2017).

Department of Conservation leads the surveys in Kahurangi NP and the West Coast (Okarito). Further sites are proposed for  2018 in Fiordland NP (Murchison Mtns and the Wapiti ballot blocks (Lower and Upper Glaisnok)).

Each survey area has different levels and methods of pest control in place. The aim of the surveys is to ascertain each site's resident breeding pairs, successful breeding events and changes to these populations over years (declining, stable or increasing). Over the years data confirms that kea struggle to successfully fledge chicks in areas where there is minimal or no pest control.

Researchers with a young kea

Each survey is carried out over a 10 period in January for 3 hours every morning (6-9 am) and evening (6-9 pm). Survey teams consist of a Site Coordinator directing 5-7 teams, each made up of an experienced kea handler teamed up with 1-2 fit volunteers. Each team positions themselves at treeline (approx 1500-1800 metres) on individual spurs and records sightings and calls twice a day for each 3 hour period. Kea are caught up where possible, biodata collected, blood taken (to test for avian diseases and/or lead levels) and identification bands and transmitters attached (depending on sex and life stage). Females are attached with egg-timer transmitters to aid in the detection of nesting behaviour during the year and males and juveniles are fitted with long-life VHF transmitters or satellite transmitters.

Transmittered kea are followed up during the year to ascertain survivorship and nesting status (refer nest monitoring project).

The population's survey at Nelson Lakes, an area extensively studied by DOC in the 1990s, showed a severe decline in the resident kea population from 11 pairs producing an average of 10 chicks per annum in an area of 7,000 hectares to 3 pairs producing 2 chicks per annum in an area of almost 14,000 hectares. This major decline is serious cause for alarm.

Related Projects

Nest Monitoring
22 Nov 13
Funded by Dulux and Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund The Kea Conservation Trust has been monitoring kea nests since 2009. The initial reason for monitoring nests was...
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Mt Aspiring population and nest monitoring
06 Oct 16
Funded by Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund. Equipment funded by Craig Butcher. Supported by DOC Wanaka. This project aims to develop a community kea catch trip, survey and...
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Kea Field Ranger Training Programme
06 Sep 21
A large proportion of our work is field-based, in the harsh South Island landscape which kea call home. To be able to do this work safely...
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NZFOA - Banding of Kea in Plantation Forestry Estate
13 Sep 19
Funded by NZFOA ($8,800) While kea are known to live and breed throughout South Island Conservation Estates (National Parks etc), little is known about kea in...
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Trialling of a surface bird repellent to deter kea from interacting with human objects
16 Jan 14
Funded by Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund Kill traps and some bait delivery systems, used to control mammalian pests, may be directly responsible for keas deaths(through their...
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Predator Control - Rotoiti kea nest protection programme
28 Nov 13
The Rotoiti/Nelson Lakes Nest Protection project has been running since 2012 and continues today.   On this page you will find the following: 2009-2011 - survey of...
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Community driven kea monitoring in the Stuart Mtns - Fiordland Wapiti Foundation Blocks
04 Apr 18
Funded by Paradise Valley Springs, Clever Kiwis, Denver Zoo, "Name a Kea" donors and Nga Whenua Rahui This multi-year project is building on the Community –...
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Milford Track Kea Initiative - investigating the health and status of kea on the Milford Track
24 Dec 19
Ultimate Hikes has been identifying and removing lead from huts on the Milford Track since 2018 to minimise the impact of lead on kea in Fiordland....
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Perth Catchment (ZIP research site) - kea monitoring
24 Dec 19
In early 2018, Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) attached transmitters to 31 kea in the Perth Valley. This was part of a study looking at kea mortality...
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Murchison Mountains kea monitoring
03 Jan 19
Funded by the Nelson Family (in loving memory of Mike and Jean Nelson), Nga Whenua Rahui, Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund, Denver Zoo, Association of Zoos and...
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Fiordland Kea Sightings Project
16 Dec 16
Supported by the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation (FWF) and Paradise Valley Springs. The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation (FWF) is supporting kea conservation by encouraging their members, to return...
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Trialling of a bird repellent to prevent kea strike on sheep
16 Jan 14
Project Background Conflict between kea and New Zealand high country sheep is an on-going issue which prior to protection being granted to kea in the early...
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