Nesting birds are unwittingly constructing “death traps”, as they increasingly use synthetic materials to create their nests.
Human hair, fishing line, wire and washing machine lint are just some the items wildlife carers are finding inside the nests of native species including magpies, ravens, magpie-larks and noisy miners.
“Disgusted” is how WIRES rescuer Inge Tiere said she felt after finding a magpie nest in Camden, in Sydney's southwest, this week which was filled with plastic pieces.
During her eight years volunteering to help injured wildlife, Ms Tiere has seen how human rubbish can turn nests into “death traps”.
“I’ve seen a number of baby birds caught in the nest,” she said.
“There’s been a couple of incidents where magpie-larks and noisy miners have been caught in rubbish and found hanging from the nest dead.”
'Insidious': Plastic entering the food chain
Birdlife Australia’s Sean Dooley told Yahoo News Australia that while some species of bird are fussy, many are opportunists and use whatever materials are available in their environment.
Magpies are particularly well known for using rubbish in their nests, and have been observed constructing them out of bailing twine and even barbed wire.
Pelicans too have been observed using plastic in their nests, with one seen on the Gippsland Lakes having used a plastic spatula.
“Birds can be very eclectic when it comes to nesting material,” Mr Dooley said.
“If you want a signpost to how we’re trashing the planet, look at what birds are putting in their nests.”
Our waste is not just confined to nests, with Total Environment Centre’s Saul Deane adding that plastic waste poses an increasing threat to the health of our oceans too.
While nature has evolved to recycle natural materials back into the Earth, plastic just sits in the soil and the ocean and continues to build up.
“The most insidious aspect is that we can see is when they get digested,” he said.
“As bad as it is being incorporated in nesting structures, where it ends up becoming a real problem is when it gets seen as food.
“The slow accumulation means that those issues will just increase.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org