20 March 2014
Last November I noticed an empty nest balanced inside a traffic light in Leicester, and then another appeared on the other side of the road… then 2 weeks ago a new nest appeared on the same roundabout (in another set of traffic lights), but this time it contained Mistle Thrush chicks.
The RSPB have reported that birds often nest in garden ornaments, buckets, hanging baskets and, if you leave your washing out for long enough, in drying clothes! Blackbirds have also be found nesting on car wheels and blue tits have constructed nests in communal ashtrays.
I spoke to Adrain Lane, Senior Riverside Ranger for Leicester City Council about the unusual nesting site, and asked why this nesting pattern within traffic lights was being repeated around the same roundabout. He told me that ‘The Thrushes have been targeting these lights for a few years now. It appears to have become inbred instinct and they are also nesting earlier, probably due to the slight increase in warmth (from the light) and sheltered nature of the site.’
When asking about the possibility of the nest being disturbed or in danger from traffic, Adrain told me ‘Maintenance of the lights is on a contract and basically if work is done before the nest are established then thats fine, once established they are left in place unless there is a significant safety issue.’
Ive also found out via New Scientist, that birds living in urban environments also use cigarette butts to line their nests to reduce the number of parasites.
Wild birds have long protected their nests from mite invasion by importing chemical-emitting plants. Birds living in cities seem to have adapted similar behaviour, filling their nests with up to 48 cigarette butts to make use of the repellent properties of tobacco. The nicotine and other chemicals in discarded filters act as a natural pesticide that repels parasitic mites. At the same time, the cellulose butts provide useful nest insulation. Scientists in Mexico City studied nests of house sparrows and house finches that each contained, on average, about 10 used cigarette butts. Birds who stored larger numbers of butts saw their nests significantly less infested by mites.