Need some help identifying the bird you saw or photographed? Have a read below.
Nowadays all kea are banded with a metal band (known as a ‘V band’) as well as two coloured plastic bands with a letter/symbol on them. Ideally they will have all three bands, but occasionally they will only have one coloured band as they can sometimes break, either when they are being banded or later on.
Some example colour bands might look like:
C ‘Black C on Yellow’ (Schist)
Or special characters like:
◊ ‘White ◊ (Diamond) on Red’ (Luciano)
Occasionally if you have a really clear image you might be able to read the engraved metal band:
V-0321 ‘V-0321’ (Arnie)
Recording a sighting
You can report a sighting of any bird (banded or not) but if they’re banded all we need is one of the bands, as written above. We can then match it up with the correct bird.
Occasionally birds will share the same coloured bands, but they’ll generally be in different areas of the country. In some instances there may also be birds that you see that haven’t yet been loaded into the database—there can sometimes be a bit of a delay in birds being banded, and being added to the database. These will eventually be matched up when the bird gets added.
‘Old’ style bands
Some birds (banded more than five years ago) will sport metal bands only. Whilst originally coloured, in almost every case the paint will have rubbed off, leaving only metal bands. There are at least two birds in the Arthur’s Pass area alone that have been observed with the metal bands only. In this instance unless there’s a clear photo of the band’s engraving, it will generally be impossible to match the bird with the sighting. Position is important with these banded birds, i.e. where it is on the bird. For example the band combo ‘x / Metal – White / Orange’ (Ruth) would suggest a bird with a single metal band on its left leg (viewed from behind) and a white band above an orange band on its right leg.
Finding out life stage/sex
You can visually tell different kea apart, and approximate what their life stage and sex might be.
Definitions: crown (top of head), ceres (base of bill), plumage (feathers)
- Fledgling (this year’s chick): pale yellow crown; pale yellow ceres & eyelids; immaculate plumage (no sign of moulting)
- Juvenile (previous year’s chick): less pale yellow crown; rich yellow ceres & eyelids; many worn feathers (may be moulting)
- Sub-adult (2–4 years old): dark crown; splotchy mix of yellow/black ceres & eyelids; generally tidy plumage (may be moulting)
- Adult (4 years plus): dark crown; mostly dark ceres & eyelids; generally tidy plumage (may be moulting)
Fledgling, Juvenile, Sub-Adult
- Female: Generally smaller than male kea. Skull length (59–67 mm) and bill length (39–50 mm) generally shorter than males. Similar length of upper and lower bill.
- Male: Larger than female kea. Skull length (64–70 mm) and bill length (47–55 mm) generally longer than females. Pronounced difference between length of upper and lower bill.
Feel free to try differentiating the life stages and sex of kea (especially those that aren’t banded) and log them with your sighting.
For more information please pick up one of our brochures from the kea information shelter in Arthur’s Pass, or scattered around South Island ski-fields and DOC Huts!