Clever magpies have been found stealing bird-repellent barriers to help build and defend their nests in areas as far apart as Scotland, Holland and Belgium.
The newly published Dutch study found the magpies seem to be using the pins exactly the same way as humans – to keep other birds away from their nests.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre saying: “You can find anti-bird pins on many Dutch buildings these days. These are sharp, metal spikes intended to scare away birds and prevent them from building nests there. But the birds don’t care much about this, a new study shows. In fact, they even make real nests from the bird spikes that are supposed to scare them off.”
Biologist Auke-Florian Hiemstra of Naturalis said: “These are the craziest bird’s nests I’ve ever seen.”
The statement said: “It all started with the discovery of a huge nest in Antwerp. A hospital patient saw in the courtyard of the hospital how magpies built a nest the size of one square meter, consisting of no less than 1,500 metal spines. The birds had pulled 50 meters of anti-bird pins from the eaves for this nest.”
Hiemstra said: “An impregnable fortress. Because the magpies seem to use the pins exactly as they are intended by humans: to keep other birds away from their nests!”
The statement said: “Magpies often put a roof on their nest to prevent other animals from stealing the eggs and young. They therefore look for specific thorny plants in nature. However, these are not always available in the city, forcing them to look for alternatives. And the anti-bird pins are a great replacement.”
The researcher said: “They are literally made to keep birds away. And that’s how they seem to be used by birds as well.”
The statement said that researchers studying magpie nests in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Scotland had noticed similar behaviour.
The statement said: “And it’s not just one pair of magpies that is guilty of this remarkable behaviour. The researchers have found several magpie nests, in the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland, which consist of anti-bird pins.
“Some magpies also use other sharp materials, such as barbed wire and knitting needles, for the roof of their nest. And if you think it’s just a quirk of the magpie, you’re wrong. In Rotterdam, crows’ nests have also been found that are also made of anti-bird spikes.”
The statement also said: “The research, published in the trade journal Deinsea , shows that the adaptability and creativity of urban birds knows no bounds. According to the researchers, the unusual bird nests show the ultimate adaptation to life in the city.
“City birds apparently don’t let themselves be bullied so easily and use material that is intended against them, precisely to their own advantage.”
Co-author Kees Moeliker, director of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, said: “Just when you think you’ve seen it all after half a century of natural history, these inventive crows and magpies really surprise me again.”
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