Kea, Bird of Paradox:
The Evolution and Behavior of a New Zealand Parrot

Judy Diamond + Alan B. Bond

University of California Press 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 1999
A parrot found in alpine regions of New Zealand's South Island, the kea Nestor notabilis is notable for its unusual behavioural traits: extreme curiosity, playfulness, and a flexibility in diet that unfortunately extends to live sheep. Bird of Paradox is a popular introduction to the ecology, evolution, and behaviour of the kea. More than a third of it is taken up by technical appendices and endnotes, bibliography, and index, making the main text little more than a morsel. It is, however, a tasty morsel, which will be snapped up with glee by birdwatchers and natural history lovers as well as by ornithologists and ethologists (who will appreciate the more technical material).

Bird of Paradox begins with the pre-human history of New Zealand, tracing the changing geological and ecological environment within which the kea evolved. It continues with the effects of human settlement, Polynesian and European, on the kea's environment, especially through the introduction of animals and bounty hunting in response to attacks on sheep.

Diamond and Bond then describe their fieldwork and observations: this provides a general introduction to kea ecology and behaviour. They trace the development of keas, as fledglings, juveniles, subadults, and adults, focusing on the role of learning in kea society. A chapter on the kaka, a closely related parrot with an overlapping range, provides ecological and behavioural contrasts and sheds light on the kea evolution of flexibility.

A final chapter looks at pragmatic issues in the human-kea relationship: wildlife protection legislation, smuggling for the pet trade, more on the history of bounty hunting, ongoing attacks on sheep and destruction of cars and other property, and the general conservation situation.

January 1999

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%T Kea, Bird of Paradox
%S The Evolution and Behavior of a New Zealand Parrot
%A Diamond, Judy
%A Bond, Alan B.
%I University of California Press
%D 1999
%O hardcover, halftones, references, index
%G ISBN 0520213394
%P xiii,230pp