The Birds

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

Two Kea parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. The Kea is thought to be one of the smartest birds in the world and is the only alpine parrot.

IMAGINE THIS SCENE:  A man and a woman are watching “Country Calendar” on the television in their house on a lonely sheep station near Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand.  The woman gets up from the couch to get some tea.  She hears a fainting tapping on the front door.

“John,”  she calls out, a little alarmed.  “There’s someone here.” 

She peers through the door’s sidelight window and sees a bloody hand smearing the glass.  “Oh, my God, John.”

"What I'd really like is a roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing."

"This isn't as tasty as that roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing that I stole from those stupid tourists the other day."

John rushes to the front hall.  “What is it?” 

“A man.  He’s hurt.  He needs help.”

John looks through the window.  “Jill don’t open the door.”   He gets a cricket bat from a closet.  He motions to his wife to get back as he opens the door. 

The stranger struggles to stand on the porch.  “They took it,” he snuffles miserably.  He weakly lifts his arm.  His shirt cuff  is shredded. 

“What did they take?”

“My Rolex,” he cries, collapsing on the porch. “My wife.  Oh, my God, my wife.  They took her jewelry. Her gold earrings.  She’ll die without those.  We didn’t have insurance.”

“Who did this?”  John walks out onto the porch to help the man to his feet.

"I know there's some food in there.  You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

"I know there's some food in there. You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

“They’re coming. Don’t let them in.”  The stranger puts his hands over his head, whimpering.  “I saved for months for that watch. It was so cooool. Now it’s gone…….It isn’t right.  They don’t even need to tell time.”

An eerie sound pierces the air.   “Keaaah!  Keaaah!”  Seemingly out of nowhere, a flock of green birds swoops in, a flash of red under their wings as they dive toward the open door.

“John, John!”  Jill yells, terrified.  John starts flailing at the birds. 

A few birds swoop toward Jill.  She barely gets the door closed in time.  The birds flap at the window for a few moments, and then they disappear.  John and Jill help the stranger to a chair.  “It’s too late,” the stranger says.  “You can’t escape them. They won’t stop until they get it all.” 

“You’re safe now,” Jill soothes, heading toward the kitchen.  “I’ll get some tea.”

The two men hear a noise, something rustling.  Wings.  Screeching.  They hear Jill scream, “Oh, my God, the kitchen window is open!”

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Preserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“Cut,” the director calls out.  The actors are relieved. Those Kea really play their parts well.  (It’s all acting, folks!  Keas do like shiny objects, though.)

The birds retreat to their perches, where they get the star treatment they deserve — plenty of mango, figs and even spoonsful of honey.

Wouldn’t this be a great scene for the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” ? A new version of “The Birds” is in the works and scheduled  for release in 2011, maybe in 3-D, with Naomi Watts and George Clooney.  The Kea parrots of New Zealand would be the perfect birds to star with A-listers in the dramatically beautiful country of New Zealand.   Super producer Michael Bay, are you listening! 

A flock of these cheeky, brilliant, mischievous and curious parrots could almost take over the world, if they wanted to.  They work well in teams to solve puzzles.  (See videos below.)  

Keas are clownishly adorable and pose no real threat to humans.  Fortunately, Keas are more likely to run off with your sandwich, snatch a gold earring or rip the rubber edging from your car.  There are so few Keas now — 1,000 to 5,000 — they are in serious danger of disappearing altogether.  They’d have to be replicated by computer generated images to produce enough Kea parrots to create a menancing flock.  There were tens of thousands of them as recently as forty years ago. They were named Kea by the Maori for the “Keaa!” cries they make.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

Their numbers have fallen drastically for a number of reasons, including a bounty that was once placed on them because they do take a bite out of livestock now and then.  They also killed by poison set out to kill possums.  Keas, now protected, are an endangered bird on the South Island of New Zealand, the only place in the world where they naturally occur.  They live in the harsh conditions of the New Zealand Alps, eating a wide range of food from fruit and seeds to other birds and carrion.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

New Zealand’s spectacular scenery, already featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would be a perfect location for this new version of “The Birds”.  Naomi Watts is rumored to be in “talks” to take the role originally played by Tippi Hedren in the Alfred Hitchcock version of the Daphne Du Maurier short story, originally set in Cornwall. Watts has already starred in King Kong in New Zealand under LOTR director Peter Jackson, so she’s familiar with the terrain. And who wouldn’t want to visit New Zealand again?

 

The third video is one I took at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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9 Comments

Filed under Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Entertainment, Environment, Humor, Life, Movies, Nature, New Zealand, Personal, Photography, Travel

9 responses to “The Birds

  1. Excellent stuff, I love keas !!!

    I hope I didn’t give the Keas a bad reputation. They are smart and funny and deserve to be movie stars! Cathy

  2. alwaysjan

    What gorgeous rusty-looking parrots! We’ve got a large flock of green parrots from Mexico and South America that roost in a tree on our block. One day they all took up positions in our alley, and as I drove out of the garage, I felt like I was in a remake of “The Birds.” Rather eerie. But I have to say I’ve come to love them as they sound like talkative small children.

    I would love to see your parrots. You have so much going on in your neighborhood! Cathy

  3. Great scene setting! We didn’t get to see any but now feel well acquainted thanks to your marvellous photos and videos.
    Apparently there are now flocks of escapee parrots that have established themselves in the Home Counties over here.

    I hope you get a chance to see Keas when you visit New Zealand the next time. I didn’t want to make the Keas seem like mean, bad guys, only smart enough to play the role!

    What kind of parrots are living in your Home Counties? I had always thought of parrots as tropical birds, but now I know that some parrots (the Keas!) can make a living in cold regions. Cathy

  4. I’m reading a book about a famous parrot, called “Alex and Me” by Dr. Irene Pepperberg. Alex is an African Grey who learned to talk to people, count, and other amazing things that Dr. Pepperberg documented. Parrots are simply amazing creatures.

    I hope Alex helps you wing your way through your long flight to Australia! I cried when I read about Alex and its last words. “You be good. I love you.” Thanks for reminding me about that book. I bought it for my son’s girlfriend for Christmas, and she said I could read it when she was done. (Yes, I had planned that all along!)

  5. Keas are real parrot secrets 🙂

  6. Great idea Cathy! I’d see your movie. The birds are so beautiful, no wonder they like shiny things. If Orlando Bloom isn’t too busy, I think he’d make a good complement to the birds.

    Orlando Bloom is a great casting choice! Cathy

  7. I love that movie. A remake would be great. I like the book too by Daphne du Maurier. I see birds of great intelligence and I am so thankful we do not have dinosaurs chasing us around.
    The birds from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad were scary enough…remember?

    Lovely poetic bit of prose there dear Catherine. Lovely Spring to you.

    Thanks, lovely spring to you, too. I enjoyed your welcome to spring post, also.

    I remember those scary birds on The Golden Voyage of Sinbad! I got du Maurier’s book of short stories that included “The Birds” and also “Don’t Look Now,” a very spine-tingling story — and movie, too. That woman sure knew how to raise the hairs on the the back of your neck! Cathy

  8. Pingback: Kea Parrot Steals Passport « Catherine Sherman

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