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Birds in or near urban areas have long been known to augment their nests with found materials — from plastic bags and foil to electrical cables and cigarette butts. Though it’s hard not to see this as a depressing visual reminder of litter and sprawl, recent research has proven that cigarette butts in nests serve a remedial purpose not only for birds but for people, too.

Last year, a group of scientists led by Monserrat Suárez-Rodríguez and Constantino Macías Garcia of the National Autonomous University of Mexico found that birds were not only weaving smoked, torn-up cigarette butts into their nests to repel parasitic ticks, but they were doing it intentionally.

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