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Cigarette Butts Protect Bird Nests

January 10, 2013

In nature, it seems, everything is good for something, no matter how disgusting. Mexican researchers have discovered that urban birds such as sparrows construct their nests our of cigarette butts in order to repel parasites such as mites. The researchers found that smoked cigarette “filter fluff” repelled nest parasites more than unsmoked cigarettes. I’m not sure it’s the nicotine, perhaps something even more noxious that forms during the burning.

“Overall, the paper presented convincing evidence that (1) parasites don’t like cigarette butts and (2) nests constructed from cigarette butts had fewer parasites.”

This is a great example of urban ecology–the way that many animals, often surprising ones, adapt to take advantage of the urban landscapes that humans have created. Another great example is the monkeys of Bangalore which use urban homes as fast food joints. And of course there have been various celebrated birds of New York.

Any examples you’ve noticed lately?

  1. jonathan cole permalink
    January 10, 2013 5:55 pm

    Flick your Butt! Help a bird!

  2. JamesPadraicR permalink
    January 11, 2013 10:57 am

    Reminds me of an old-time pesticide, Nicotine tea. A simple concoction of water and tobacco leaves, sprayed on plants keeps pests off. But too toxic for food crops.

    Several years ago, in Colorado Springs, we had our own ‘wild’ parrots in the alley right behind my home. They built their nest under transformers to keep warm in the winter. The Hillside Parrots, not exactly a colony, but certainly unexpected to find here. Unfortunately the city decided to remove them, the local zoo agreed (not too enthusiastically) to take the two that were left, two males–father and son, they survived a few more years.

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