Jeff Clarke Ecology

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The Alpine Parrot

The Alpine Parrot

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Kaikoura is four hours from Arthur's Pass. When you have journeyed over 20,000 miles that's not far too travel to enjoy a long held ambition. Every naturalist will recognise that urge to see for yourself those creatures that you have read about, or maybe watched on television. Arthur's Pass is home to one of those much-coveted animals. Not only that but this thing has charisma, a touch of devilment and high intelligence. It is none other than that high altitude parrot the Kea.

Kea's have a beak like a tin-opener and a brain like a mensa candidate. A lethal combination for the unwary. This parrot likes to play and one of its favourite games is dismantling bits of visiting cars, so you park in their playground at your peril.

The approach to Arthur's Pass is majestic, with towering mountains and vast braided rivers. An appropriate setting for such a lordly parrot. On arrival at the small township we asked about the best places to observe the Kea. They suggested in the vicininty of a cafe appropriately named the Wobbly Kea. Minutes later we were enjoying the antics of a Kea as it 'worked' the area for feeding opportunities.

Most comical of all was a driver too intimidated to get out of a car as one Kea eye-balled them from their driver's side wing mirror. It's only when a Kea takes wing that you realise that it's not just a big mossy green parrot, as it's flashes a startlingly vivid orange-red underwing.

We also took a little time to head to a scenic waterfall spot known as the Devil's Punchbowl. Walking this area (lots of steps) we enjoyed several native bird species, including very close views of Brown Creeper. All too soon we were out of time and we made a reluctant return to base. This whole area is visually stunning and a must visit area for anyone touring South Island. 

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