Friday, January 28, 2022

Cigarette butts form a perceptually cryptic component of song thrush (Turdus philomelos) nests

TitleCigarette butts form a perceptually cryptic component of song thrush (Turdus philomelos) nests
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsIgic, B, Casey, P, Samas, P, Grim, T, Hauber, ME
Type of Articlearticle
Keywordsavian vision, nest architecture, perceptual modelling, spectrophotometry, waste

Bird nests often contain objects produced and manipulated by other animals, including human rubbish. The function, if any, of these items remains unclear, and it is unknown whether they might serve a signalling role to increase the conspicuousness of the nest lining or contribute to its crypsis. We located several nests of the introduced song thrush (Turdus philomelos) in New Zealand containing discarded cigarette butts. These items were embedded into the dried mud-matrix of the nest and appeared visually inconspicuous to the human observer. However, human and avian visual sensitivities are dramatically different. We used full-spectrum reflectance spectrophotometry, combined with perceptual modelling of the avian visual system to assess the contrast between mud lining, garbage, and the colours of thrush eggs. Our analyses confirmed that, when perceived by birds, cigarette butts were similar in appearance to the nest lining and showed sharp contrast with the eggs. We suggest that cigarette butts form an opportunistic structural component of the song thrush nest. It remains to be determined whether human-made objects in song thrush nests serve anti-predator or an olfactory signalling function. This study illustrates the application of avian perceptual modelling to test signalling based hypotheses for the extended phenotype of birds, including nest architecture.

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