A positive use for cigarettes

A St. Andrews University study shows that birds may have found some useful aspect for the countless cigarettes littered on our Earth.  Not only can the used cigarette butts be used as insulation for the bird's nest; according to researches, they also serve as a way to fend of pests.  Researchers from St. Andrews studied the nests of finches and sparrows in Mexico City at the National University of Mexico.  They found that on average, each nest contained about 10 cigarette butts and ranged from 0 up to 48 cigarettes in one nest.

bird nest.png
image source: http://idreamofeden.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/art-016.jpg

The cellulose in the cigarette butts can be used as a source of insulation for the nest.  The chemicals in the cigarette butts including nicotine are thought to keep pests like mites out of their nests.  In both the finches and sparrows nests', there was a direct correlation between the number of cigarettes and the drop in parasite numbers.

In order to test their theory, scientists used smoked cigarette butts and non-smoked cigarette butts.  They put them on what they call "thermal traps" to attract pests and put them in the nests.  Results of the experiment provided their hypothesis to be true.  Less pests went to the nests with filters that had been smoked.

image source: http://bernalwood.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/smokingbluejay.jpg

All of this is fine and dandy, however I have one question.  The health of the birds.  How can this not be bad for them?  Sure they will have less pests, but raising chicks near nicotine certainly cannot be good for them.  What the birds are doing seems almost counter-productive to me.  They're consciously improving their lives in one aspect, but unconsciously living near harmful chemicals in cigarettes.

"Birds Use Cigarette Butts to Line Nests, St Andrews University Study Finds." BBC News. BBC, 12 May 2012. Web. 06 Dec. 2012.


As I was reading this post, I was wondering the same thing that you were about how the Nicotine affects the health of the bird, and especially the health of the baby birds. I can't believe that the baby birds being hatched and aged around a plentiful supply of Nicotine can be good for them. I agree with almost all of your conclusion, but a lot of what you said assumes that the bird's know better. They don't know that this little piece of what seems to be a part of nature is harboring potentially dangerous chemicals that could kill their young. From the evolutionary perspective of psychology, animals live solely to raise young and continue on the species. No animal would consciously make this decision. This means that we, as humans, need to be the ones who take care of these birds by throwing away our cigarette butts in the trash rather than on the ground where these birds have access to them.

I agree with you 100% about people dropping their cigarette butts instead of disposing of them properly. It seems like anywhere you go, you can find cigarettes on the ground; it's disgusting. We treat the Earth like we own it, or are entitled to something. We are one of the newest things to Earth in the grand-scheme of things. We need to take care of it a little better than we do. Another question I had about the dangers of the nicotine is eggs. I can't imagine that nicotine can seep through the linings of the egg. However, if it can would the birth results be similar to that of a human child born to a smoking mother?

Interesting blog. I think it is amusing to see that bird's can actually find productive uses for cigarette butts. However, I have to say in terms of the effects i am with you; a study must be done to see if the newly hatched infants have nay short or long term effects, and if they are similar to those that humans experience.It is interesting because in the cause of humans, especially with child birth, the infant or fetus is actually inhaling the products of cigarettes, not just the nicotine. In this case, it would just be the fumes maybe spreading out in the nest, while the bids are not directly inhaling all the byproducts invested in a cigarette. But hey, until it is done, we will never know.

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