Researchers say they have found a way to stop kea from eating the aerially deployed 1080 poison pellets meant for their predators.

Aerial 1080 is used to remove invasive mammalian predators in New Zealand, but kea are omnivorous and forage on the ground, and thus are at direct risk of consuming toxic baits.

Making the alpine parrots queasy on mimic-bait filled with a mild gut irritant first could teach them to avoid the real thing in the future.

In one case, 10 captive kea were offered treated bait over the course of a couple of days.

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By the end of the trial, just one took up the offer to snack on the pellet.

By the end of another test run (this time with nine kea), only one bird ended up consuming enough bait to a level that would have been fatal with toxic bait.

The scientists say the aversion continued even when baits were offered a further six times over two days, opening up the possibility that birds in the wild can learn to avoid the baits generally.

Found out more about the research - Conditioned aversion in kea to cereal bait: a captive study using anthraquinone.