Five kea killed on Milford Road

2 minutes read
Posted 11 July, 2024
Screenshot 2024 07 11 140919

Kea on the roof of a car along the Milford road. Photo: Crystal Brindle/DOC

The Department of Conservation is urging people to stop feeding kea following a spate of preventable road deaths of the parrot.

Five kea have been hit and killed by vehicles at popular waypoints on the Milford Road since April alone.

DOC Senior Ranger Biodiversity Lydia McLean says these deaths are gutting for everyone and can be avoided if people follow simple rules.

“Kea are incredibly charismatic and naturally inquisitive parrots which is why people love seeing them on their journeys so much. However, deliberately enticing them closer by offering them food or other lures is having devastating consequences.

“Not only is human food bad for them but feeding disrupts their natural foraging and draws them towards the road where they are at risk of being run over. Sadly, that is what occurred here.”

The kea that were run over include a juvenile male at Monkey Creek on 3 April; an adult male at the Homer Tunnel on 17 April which was witnessed by a DOC staff member; a third juvenile at Monkey Creek on 29 April; and two juveniles hit together on 14 June at Monkey Creek.

Necropsy confirmed blunt force trauma as the cause of death, and all birds were in otherwise good health and condition.

McLean says while it’s difficult to stop kea from interacting with vehicles on their own terms due to their inquisitive nature, there are a few simple steps motorists can take to reduce the risk of hitting them.

“Slow down around kea. Take care as you pull away from stopping areas; they don’t move out of the way as fast as you would think, and never drive away if a kea is on your vehicle.

“Remind others that feeding kea is harmful both for their health and because it encourages more scavenging behaviour and leads to more kea on the road and in harm’s way.”

DOC and the Kea Conservation Trust are encouraging the public to be kea advocates and report inappropriate interactions and sightings of people feeding kea so we can better understand how to target messaging, McLean says.

“We do what we can to prevent feedings, including having signage at known hot spots that has clear images so it can reach non-English speaking visitors, but it still doesn’t seem to be getting through. If you see something report it to DOC.”

Another way people can help is by logging sightings of kea on the sightings database: https://keadatabase.nz/

McLean says they can then use citizen science to know what the birds are up to around the Milford Road.


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