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Urban sparrows find new use for cigarette butts

Published on Dec 5, 2012 9:17 AM
 
A tourist feeds a sparrow on September 20, 2012 in Berlin's city center. -- PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Cigarette butts are widely reviled as an urban nuisance but birds in Mexico City see them as a boon, apparently using them to deter parasites from their nests, scientists say.

Local sparrows and finches incorporate smoked cigarette butts in their nests to provide cosy cellulose lining for their chicks and nicotine to ward off mites, they believe.

A team led by Constantino Macias Garcia at the National Autonomous University monitored 57 nests and found that the tally of bugs declined as the number of smoked butts in each nest increased.

Sparrow nests had between none and 38 used butts, with an average of eight per nest, and finch nests between none and 48, with an average of 10.

 
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