Kea chick’s hatching at Denver Zoo marks rare occasion for U.S. zoos

Scarlet was born February 8 at Denver Zoo. / Denver Zoo

DENVER, Colo. — Denver Zoo is celebrating its inaugural successful hatching of a kea – a large, vulnerable species of parrot.

The female chick, named Scarlet, hatched February 8 and has been hand-reared by zookeepers since then at the Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center.

Scarlet’s arrival is special because she increases the North American zoo population to 38 keas – 14 of which are female.

Scarlet will soon make her public debut at the Denver Zoo’s Bird World habitat.

More on keas:

Zoo officials say only 11 institutions in North America house the species and they can be very difficult to breed.

Scarlet will eventually be placed with her parents once she is old enough, they added.

Keas are one of the few alpine species of parrot in the world and are found mostly in the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand. Adult keas can grow to about 19 inches long and can weight about two pounds.

Their feathers are mostly olive-green with bright, reddish-orange coloring under their wings.

Keas were named by the Māori people (native or indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) for the sound of one of the birds’ vocalizations, which sounds like “kee-yah.”

Experts estimate the wild kea population between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals, but could be significantly lower. Experts say the species is thought to be in decline and is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They face a number of threats, including human-animal conflict and predation by introduced species, like stoats and possums.



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