A picture of a pigeons’ nest made entirely from used syringes has been shared by police in the Canadian city of Vancouver to highlight its drug crisis.
Shared on social media by Superintendent Michelle Davey, she said it had been found in a single room occupancy in the Downtown Eastside area of the city.
She described the image as reflecting the “sad reality of the opioid crisis” in the city, alongside the hashtags “#fentanyl #frontline”.
She also added “#notstaged” – a claim disputed by some social media users who have said it is a hoax.
Luc-Alain Giraldeau, a scientist at l’Univérsité du Québec à Montréal, told the National Post newspaper that he was certain the image did not show a real pigeons’ nest.
He said it contained too many eggs as pigeons usually only lay two at a time. He added that it lacks the thick coat of pigeon feces that the birds typically use to keep their eggs warm. Pigeon nests are “always constructed on a flat surface,” he said.
He added: “This cannot be a pigeon nest.”
Marion Chatelain, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Warsaw specialising in the urbanisation of wildlife, agreed.
“To the best of my knowledge, feral pigeons do not use human wastes to build their nest,” she wrote in an email to the National Post — adding that it is very peculiar to see more than two eggs in a nest.
Nathaniel Wheelwright, a veteran bird biologist at Maine’s Bowdoin College, told the newspaper: “My first reaction was that it looks faked.”
However he added: “But then pigeons do build flimsy platform nests of thick twigs, and house wrens sometimes nest in bags of nails. So, it could be.”
Regardless of the authenticity of the image, it has served to draw international attention to the city’s problem with prescription opiod abuse.
In December nine people died from fentanyl overdoses across the city in one 24 hour period.
Asked for comment by The Independent, Vancouver Police spokesperson Randy Fincham said: “The photo is authentic, as it was taken by a VPD officer. There are lots of possibilities leading to the creation of the nest, before the police arrived, but I’m not an ornithologist. The pigeons flew out the window when officers entered the vacant room.”
He added: “The plethora of bird experts who have now “chirped” in on the topic are more than welcome to do so.”
In a separate interview with VICE News, he said the point of tweeting the image was to “share the prevalence of drug use down there, some of the challenges people who live in the area face, and the problems police face. And to provide insight into a world that very few people need to see and it’s a sad reflection of what’s happening in the community down there.”
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