School of Psychology - Leading psychological science, scholarship and practice

Kea Lab

About us

Flying kea
Kea, New Zealand's alpine parrot

The Kea Lab is located in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, in New Zealand’s South Island. Kea (Nestor notabilis) are the world’s only alpine parrots, and recent research suggests that they have sophisticated social and physical intelligence. We work with a captive population of individuals in a large outdoor aviary resembling their natural environment. We are interested in play and problem solving abilities in kea.

Although much of our work focuses on evolutionary and comparative psychology, much of it is relevant to kea conservation in the wild. Kea are endangered in the wild, and this is in part due to their curiosity, which results in deaths from lead poisoning and intake of other toxic substances, such as chocolate.

We hope to aid in the conservation of this species, by improving our understanding of how kea think. For information on how you can help with kea conservation, visit the Kea Conservation Trust website.

Further information on some of our current research can be found on our The Warbling Kea Project website.


Meet our team

Gabriela Venable

Gabriela Venable

Yale Robert C. Bates Postgraduate Fellow


Rachel Johnston

Field Site Technician

Kea Camp 2018 (left to right): Rachel Johnston, Romana Gruber, Martina Schiestl, Rebecca Hassall, Patrick Neilands, Dr Alex Taylor, Amalia Bastos

Our Collaborators

Ximena Nelson

Ximena Nelson

Associate Professor
University of Canterbury

Rachael Shaw

Rachael Shaw

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Victoria University of Wellington


There are many opportunities to volunteer with us at the aviary, even if you have no scientific background. Voluteering involves working up close with the kea, by training, playing with, and feeding the birds. If this is something you might be interested in, please contact us by filling in this form.

The Kea Lab also offers research opportunities for masters and PhD students. If you are interested in our research at the Kea Lab please contact Dr Alex Taylor.



Our recent work with kea has featured in national and international news articles, including:

For media related enquiries, please contact Dr Alex Taylor.



Below is a list of some of our recent publications:

Heaney, M., Bastos, A. P. M., Gray, R. D., & Taylor, A. H. (2019). Are kea prosocial? Ethology.

Heaney, M., Gray, R. D., & Taylor, A. H. (2017). Kea show no evidence of inequity aversion. Royal Society Open Science, 4(3)10.1098/rsos.160461

Heaney, M., Gray, R. D., & Taylor, A. H. (2017). Keas perform similarly to chimpanzees and elephants when solving collaborative tasks. PLOS ONE, 12(2)10.1371/journal.pone.0169799

Lambert, M. L., Schiestl, M., Schwing, R., Taylor, A. H., Gajdon, G. K., Slocombe, K. E., & Seed, A. M. (2017). Function and flexibility of object exploration in kea and New Caledonian crows. Royal Society Open Science, 4(9)10.1098/rsos.170652