Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),    2012, 58(5): 727 - 740
Title: Vocal repertoire of the New Zealand kea parrot Nestor notabilis
Authors: Raoul SCHWING, Stuart PARSONS, Ximena J. NELSON
 S c h o o l   o f   B i o l o g i c a l   S c i e n c e s ,   U n i v e r s i t y   o f   A u c k l a n d , N e w   Z e a l a n d 
Abstract: The unique alpine-living kea parrot Nestor notabilis has been the focus of numerous cognitive studies, but its communication system has so far been largely neglected. We examined 2,884 calls recorded in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Based on audio and visual spectrographic differences, these calls were categorised into seven distinct call types: the non-oscillating ‘screech’ contact call and ‘mew’; and the oscillating ‘trill’, ‘chatter’, ‘warble’ and ‘whistle’; and a hybrid ‘screech-trill’. Most of these calls contained aspects that were individually unique, in addition to potentially encoding for an individual’s sex and age. Additionally, for each recording, the sender’s previous and next calls were noted, as well as any response given by conspecifics. We found that the previous and next calls made by the sender were most often of the same type, and that the next most likely preceding and/or following call type was the screech call, a contact call which sounds like the ‘kee-ah’ from which the bird’s name derives. As a social bird capable of covering large distances over visually obstructive terrain, long distance contact calls may be of considerable importance for social cohesion. Contact calls allow kea to locate conspecifics and congregate in temporary groups for social activities. The most likely response to any given call was a screech, usually followed by the same type of call as the initial call made by the sender, although responses differed depending on the age of the caller. The exception was the warble, the kea’s play call, to which the most likely response was another warble. Being the most common call type, as well as the default response to another call, it appears that the ‘contagious’ screech contact call plays a central role in kea vocal communication and social cohesion [Current Zoology 58 (5): 727-740, 2012].
Keywords: Acoustic signals, Communication, Kea, Psittacidae, Social behaviour, Habitat

*Correspondence should be addressed to Ximena J. NELSON (

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