Kea parrots are renowned thieves in their native New Zealand, and with good reason – even a complicated sequence of locks can’t foil them.
Hiromitsu Miyata of Kyoto University in Japan first presented keas with boxes of food secured with up to three bolts. The parrots managed to open all of them, so he made the tasks harder. The most challenging set-up involved two bolts blocking each other such that one needed to be slid open before the second would release.
Miyata found that the keas cracked this problem faster if they were allowed to study the set-up for a while before attempting to break it (Animal Cognition, DOI: 10.1007/s10071-010-0342-9). This suggests they are able to plan their moves, he says. Until now, the birds were thought to tackle problems in a haphazard fashion.
Why a “junk food” diet is killing off the Kea. The forested mountains of New Zealand’s South Island are home to a famously mischievous alpine parrot. But human conflict, deliberate feeding and the deadly threat of invasive mammals is driving the species’ decline. This year, it was uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List: here.
November 2010: New evidence shows possums are eating New Zealand’s native parrot, the kea. Researchers using nest-cameras have for the first time witnessed the gruesome reality inside defenceless kea nests invaded by stoats and possums in South Westland: here.
Parrots are one of the most frequently kept and bred bird orders in captivity. This increases poaching and thus the potential importance of captive populations for rescue programmes managed by zoos and related institutions. Both captive breeding and poaching are selective and may be influenced by the attractiveness of particular species to humans. In this paper, we tested the hypothesis that the size of zoo populations is not only determined by conservation needs, but also by the perceived beauty of individual parrot species assessed by human observers: here.