house sparrow
by Ali Berman
Categories: Animals, Science.

City dwelling birds have found a use for one of the worst sources of pollution out there. The cigarette. A vice that gives a person cancer, pollutes the air, and then, for its grand performance, gets tossed on the ground for a double dose of pollution.

But urban birds, according to Discovery, have made lemonade out of cancer causing lemons. Instead of aiming their “waste” at every smoker who tosses a cigarette on the ground, they pick them up to use in their nests.

One might think, that like other pieces of trash, twigs and leaves, birds just grab the butts because they make a good material for the nest. But it’s more than that. The toxic nature of cigarettes actually wards off parasites. The discovery, published in Royal Society Biology Letters, explains, “The amount of cellulose acetate from butts in nests of two widely distributed urban birds was negatively associated with the number of nest-dwelling parasites. Moreover, when parasites were attracted to heat traps containing smoked or non-smoked cigarette butts, fewer parasites reached the former, presumably due to the presence of nicotine.”

According to the study, cigarettes also make a good material for insulation.

It’s great that birds are finding a way to adapt to our heavy source of pollution, but hopefully, as smoking continues to be banned in more areas, we’ll have less cigarette butts floating around to be used.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is a writer, teacher and activist. She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Ali is also a fiction writer. Her published work can be found on her website at aliberman.com. In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

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