Hostile architecture is a design strategy that restricts access to public space. Spikes protruding from doorways, fences under stairs, and curved benches that require the user to stabilize themselves with their feet are examples of the inhumane practice that deters unhoused, poor, and young people from gathering in urban areas. The approach also applies to non-human species, and birds are primary targets—a few years back, a Bristol tree was even spotted with spines lining its branches.
But as researchers from Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the Natural History Museum Rotterdam have discovered, our feathered friends have more ingenuity than architects thought. A paper published this month in Deinsea highlights several examples of magpies and carrion crows building nests with strips of anti-bird spikes in both Rotterdam and Antwerp. Magpies are particularly enterprising and use pointed edges for their original purpose: many have lined the roofs of their homes with the spikes to deter predators from snatching eggs.
Adhesive residue also suggests that the birds ripped the unwelcoming materials from their original places and combined them with twigs, netting, and other findings. This comes after several sightings of cockatoos tearing the strips from buildings and is part of a long history of avians using human-made material like knitting needles and barbed wire for their nests. “It’s actually like a joke,” biologist Auke-Florian Hiemstra said about the findings. “Even for me as a nest researcher, these are the craziest bird nests I’ve ever seen.”
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