31 Mar 2012

Roofing nails put kea at risk of lead poisoning

12:02 pm on 31 March 2012

A new study shows kea living near towns and cities have high levels of lead in their blood as a result of eating roofing nails with lead heads.

The New Zealand Journal of Ecology surveyed the birds in seven South Island spots, including a mixture of remote and populated areas.

It found all kea had elevated lead levels, and nearly two thirds of those sampled in populated areas had levels high enough to cause lead poisoning.

Department of Conservation wildlife veterinarian Kate McInnes says Kea eat the lead-head nails thinking they are food, as the metal is soft and tastes sweet.

She says lead poisoning can cause seizures and brain damage in the birds.