About Us

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.


Our Team

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.


See this video of our work with the kea featured on TVNZ 1:

Our work was also featured in the documentary short film, The Birds of Play:

Our Collaborators

Ximena Nelson
Associate Professor
University of Canterbury

Rachael Shaw
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Victoria University of Wellington

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 our most recent publications:

Bastos, A. P. M. & Taylor, A. H. (2020). Kea show three signatures of domain-general statistical inference. Nature Communications 11, 828. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14695-1

Bastos, A. P. M. & Taylor, A. H. (2019). Kea (Nestor notabilis) represent object trajectory and identity. Scientific Reports 9, 19759. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-56380-4

Heaney, M., Bastos, A. P. M., Gray, R. D., & Taylor, A. H. (2019). Are kea prosocial? Ethology. DOI: 10.1111/eth.12944

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