Birds have been known to collect cigarette ends to line their nests. The residual tobacco acts to repel irritating parasites, much as active smoking tends to work for smokers. Birds, however, do not generally smoke. Not even crows, even though they sound like they do. They don’t have lighters, and have so far not mastered the .vocal requirements to pronounce ‘Twenty Rothmans please’. I’m sure they are working on it.
There have been occasional sightings of birds carrying lit cigarettes in their beaks. Outdoors, naturally, since birds abide by the smoking ban and never visit pubs. They are usually jackdaws or magpies since these thieving swines will grab anything shiny. If enough of them were to gather in one place they could carry off Vince Cable’s head. Well, it’s not as if he makes much use of it.
I’m sure there have been a few fires caused by these smoking birds, but they will be rare. Not least because the flight home will accelerate the burning of the last bits of tobacco in a discarded cigarette end so that all they have left is a filter and a bit of ash. Once in a while, one could make it back to the nest with the smoke still alight and enjoy it with a glass of Old Crow while laughing at comical cats on the internet.
It’s not impossible for a bird to start a fire in this way but I would contend that it’s likely to be very rare.
It’s not something I would assume when investigating a house fire.
‘We looked everywhere, but the smoking gun was found when we discovered a partially burnt birds’ nest.
If the bird’s nest was the first thing alight, why was it only partially burnt? That would suggest it was at the periphery of the fire, not at the centre of it.
‘Neighbours told us they often saw birds flying in and out of a hole in the roof.
‘We believe that one of the birds picked up a cigarette butt that was still smouldering and dropped it into the nest, causing it to catch fire and set the roof alight.’
That’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? A partially burnt pigeon’s nest, extrapolated to a pigeon smoking in bed? Why not blame spontaneous sparrow combustion or a flamethrower attack by enraged neighbouring greenfinches? It looks less like an investigation and more like ‘We have no idea, let’s just blame the smokers’.
So let’s see. The fire started at 10:20 pm. Sunset is around 6 pm (I wasn’t watching tonight but it was fully dark by 6:30). Pigeons are not nocturnal. They tend to be asleep at night unless one of them woke with a full bladder and decided to nip out for a smoke since he was awake anyway.
This does not point to the conclusion drawn by professional investigators at all.
Another point worth making is that if smokers weren’t all banned from every single pub in the land, they would not be discarding cigarettes outdoors. They would be stubbing them out in ashtrays indoors. Away from smokophobes and finger-waggers and away from nicotine-loving pigeons. Birds, as I said, never go to pubs, so all those cigarette ends would be safe.
And the birds can buy their own.