While most of the country was glued to the New Zealand election last month, others had their eye on the hotly contested Bird of the Year award. This year, the cheeky kea soared to first place from second last year, taking out the kererū and the kakapo for the title. Here are a few facts everyone should know about 2017's Bird of the Year.

They're the only alpine parrots in the world
The shape and weight of kea means they're perfectly suited to cold alpine conditions - their bodies don't lose heat too quickly and their curved beak and powerful claws are perfect for navigating difficult, snowy conditions.

You'll only find them in the South Island
Native kea are nowhere to be seen in New Zealand's North Island (at least not in the wild). If you want to spot one, you'll have to travel to the lowland river valleys and coastal forests of the South Island's west coast or to the nearby alpine regions like Arthur's Pass and Aoraki.

Some say they're the smartest birds in the world
In an international test of animal IQs, the kea was tested for its ability to use certain tools, up against some of the best brains in the animal kingdom. It's believed that the kea's intelligence and ingenuity rivals even that of some primates.


Their diet is the stuff of nightmares...
Most parrots are harmless vegetarians, and so are kea - most of the time, that is. The only carnivorous parrot in the world, kea are known for attacking the nests of other birds and even live sheep. They are known for riding on the backs of sheep at night, with the goal of tearing into their flesh with their powerful bills.

...but that's no reason to hate them
Thanks to their cheeky behaviour and sheep-eating ways, kea have a chequered past in New Zealand, with more than 150,000 killed in the century preceding 1970 by hunters motivated by a bounty. In 1983, kea became fully protected under the Wildlife Act and they remain a treasured New Zealand birdlife.