A bird’s nest full of cigarette butts and slightly smoked cigars has raised some eyebrows.
The photo of the nest was posted by a user named “velvence” on Reddit’s “Mildly Interesting” forum, drawing over 25,000 reactions. Numerous baby birds, as well as one unhatched egg, are noticeable in the picture.
The poster said the nest belongs to a blue tit, a bird species known for its light yellowish body and bluish wings. Britannica said the blue tit can lay up to 15 eggs at once, among the most worldwide. It has also been known to feed with great tits in woodland areas. It is found in different regions including Great Britain, Russia, Japan and southern Asia.
Newsweek reached out to the poster, who made it seem like they work in a hospital. The poster said a sign was erected warning against throwing more cigarette butts inside the nest.
“Many of the hospital staff are now patrolling the bin to discourage visitors who don’t read the sign from disposing of butts there. [T]he cigarette bucket is labeled warning hospital visitors not to throw in the butts,” the poster said. “In addition, employees patrol the bucket regularly to ensure that no accidents occur despite the label.”
The poster added that the ornithological station in the hospital’s vicinity informed employees that the species likes to choose awkward places to nest, adding that the area includes a multitude of trees, shrubs and even a forest.
“I don’t know why the bird feels so comfortable here. [W]e are told to leave the bucket labeled as the bird will reside in it for some time before the young can fly out,” the poster said.
“That was kind of what the tobacco plant was going for when developing nicotine in its leaves,” one poster commented. “Same as the coffee bean with caffeine. It’s all just pest control. The main benefit wasn’t for 180 pound apes to get a kick out of it.”
The difference in the amount of nicotine inhaled also drew a response.
“I like how you can see the disparity between people who’ve left a good half an inch of unsmoked cigarette, the people who’ve smoked them right down to the filter, one guy who thinks he’s The Man With No Name smoking a cigarillo, and then some fancy lad who took two puffs on his cigar and decided that was enough,” one Redditor said.
A 2012 piece by Matt Kaplan in Nature, titled “City birds use cigarette butts to smoke out parasites,” said that birds have long been known to line nests with vegetation rich in compounds.
Meanwhile, he reported that chemicals in tobacco leaves are known to repel arthropods such as parasitic mites. One referenced study measured the amount of cellulose acetate—a component of cigarette butts—in a nest, discovering that the more there was, the fewer parasitic mites the nest contained.
And when researchers studied whether nicotine content directly correlated to the repellent effect of cigarette butts, they found that nests with unsmoked butts had “many more parasites attached to them” than those with smoked butts.
“Traps with unsmoked butts caught on average more than twice as many parasites,” the study said, causing researchers to ponder whether birds preferred cigarettes with higher nicotine levels due to better fending off parasites.