Attack of the Keas 24 Dec 1999

Face to face     
Attack of the keas, Homer Tunnel / Hollyford Valley, New Zealand.     

We were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie — at least it seemed that way. We experienced the Attack of the Killer Keas on the return from Milford Sound.

Keas are large green parrots that live in sub-alpine regions of the mountains. It was a surprise to us, because we associate parrots with steamy jungles and Amazon rainforests.

Let me at her, Harry! The fearless birds are playful scamps, but can do damage to cars, tents, shoes, etc., with their sharp beaks. There are colorful tales of people leaving their cars in a back-country carpark all day, then when driving home, the windows all fall out. A bit fanciful, no doubt, but the birds are known for damaging tents and boots of trampers (backpackers).

Sure enough, when we stopped at the east end of the Homer Tunnel, we soon had two of the green critters on our car biting at the seals around the doors and windows. One landed on the car mirror and was peering through the window at Janis, but Janis was looking out the opposite side.

I said, "Janis, look out your window." When she did, there was a kea staring at her from about 6 inches away. Janis shrieked in surprise. The bird didn't even flinch.

I'm dangerous - I can kill you with a bare beak! Feed me! I got out and took a bunch of pictures. One of the keas hopped down to the ground at my feet and walked right up to me. With visions of the "The Birds" clouding my brain, I was afraid he was going jump on my head and begin pecking my eyes out, so I backed off.

We escaped those two without incident, then encountered another at Pop's Overlook a few kilometers down the mountain. This one was a real poser.

The keas, of course, are looking for handouts, but people are asked not to feed them. Judging from the bird's proximity to the sign, however, I'd say the his retort is, "Signs? We don't read no stinkin' signs!"

           Cheers,
           Janis & Larry

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