Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nicotine

Nicotine is highly addictive, and not just for us humans.

I observed this black vulture (Coragyps atratus) apparently looking for and eating discarded cigarettes at a roadside park in central Florida. I also noted the same behavior with a different group of vultures at another park during the same trip.

If we were to eat tobacco like this, it would quickly make us sick. Vultures are adapted to eat decaying meat and all the nasty toxins that go with it. Because of this, they have what would be described as an, "iron stomach". I wonder how common the behavior is and if addicted vultures get angry when they haven't had a fix in too long.

Cigarette butts have reportedly been found in the intestines of whales (presumably having been washed out to the ocean and ingested along with their normal food). There are photos of other birds investigating cigarette butts they come across, but I haven't found any reports of any animals actually eating them.

(While trying to find other reports of this behavior, I did find a report of people smoking dried vulture brains. People are strange things.)