Looks like New Zealand's traffic authorities will need to parrot-proof their road cones.

When traffic cones along a popular tourist route in the Fiordland region of the South Island began mysteriously moving around, workers with the New Zealand Transport Agency decided to check footage from their traffic cameras in an attempt to pin down the culprits.

What they found was a pandemonium of cone-shuffling kea parrots.

"The team were a little puzzled to find their road cones in odd places in recent weeks – until they checked the footage from their cameras at each end of the one-way Homer Tunnel, the entrance to Milford Sound, and the answer became clear," explains the agency.

According to local media outlets, the juvenile kea often seen on this stretch of road are particularly accustomed to people – but they've never attempted to "redirect traffic" before. 

The team will now be testing out some heavier road cones to try to discourage the behaviour.

The world's only alpine parrots, kea are endemic to New Zealand, and the mountainous environments of the South Island are their home turf.

Thanks to their famous intelligence and inquisitiveness, the birds are masters at manipulating objects – though they often put those skills to use in mischievous ways (like dismantling car antennas or making off with tourists' passports.)

Avian antics aside, kea are also nationally endangered: only around 5,000 of them remain, and populations are in decline. Introduced predators like cats and possums pose the biggest threat to their survival, but the birds are also at risk from human activity. Collisions with vehicles and exposure to unsuitable human food (keas are notorious thieves of human food scraps) also take their toll – which is something traffic authorities want to warn local drivers about. 

"People are encouraged not to feed these endangered birds or encourage their activity near traffic for their own good." 


Top header image: cjette, Flickr