Crow and Magpie Nests Show the 'Birds Are Outsmarting Us'

Study finds they have made nests using anti-bird spikes
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2023 3:55 PM CDT
'These Are the Craziest Bird Nests I've Ever Seen'
A crow flies over fields in the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, before sunrise.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Crows in particular have long demonstrated spooky levels of intelligence, but a new Dutch study shows they, along with magpies, have an ability to adapt to their urban environments that isn't just clever but ironic as well. The Guardian reports that researchers with Rotterdam's Natural History Museum and the Leiden Naturalis Biodiversity Center found crow and magpie nests in four European locations that were almost wholly made from the anti-bird spikes many property owners install to prevent them from roosting on their buildings. Biologist Auke-Florian Hiemstra with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center tells the Guardian, "Even for me as a nest researcher, these are the craziest bird nests I've ever seen."

Hiemstra tells New Scientist that while this discovery "sounds like a joke, it's kind of heart-warming that these birds are actually outsmarting us and using anti-bird material for their own benefits." New Scientist notes that birds commonly opt to use thorny branches when building nests as a way to protect their young from predators, and even less comfortable materials than those have been used in the past: The study notes "the first report of a crow's nest made of barbed wire dates back to 1933"; more recently, materials ranging from nails to drug syringes have been seen in nests.

And as The Conversation reports, a review of studies involving nests over the past century found evidence of 176 bird species that have incorporated human-made substances into nest-building, sometimes to dangerous effect. As Kees Moeliker, head of Rotterdam's Natural History Museum, tells the Guardian, "These birds are very smart and they always find ways to cope with the harsh urban life." (Read more birds stories.)

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