(E-mail received 21 Apr 2005; Subject:
bird with quarters)
Birds will use all kinds of things for nest building. I
study birds and I have a lot of nests on my property. When I clean out my
bird boxes every year I find all kinds of objects in their nest. Once I
found a plastic toy soldier weaved into the nest, another time I found a
metal bottle cap mixed in with the small sticks. Birds are naturally
attracted to shiney objects, aren't we all. Also the bird may have been
cleaning out the machine to make room for the new nest. Birds are natural
house cleaners, and that is why alot a birds will not nest in a previously
built, or used nest. Birds will not build in a cluttered area, it must be
cleaned first, after all do we want someones left over clutter when we move
into our new home. Birds will also use all kinds of objects to to make their
nests stronger, hold it together better, so the quarters could be used for
supporting the nest. I hope that I have given you a better understanding of
"the bird", also an appreciation of just how smart our little feathered
friends are. Birds, you gotta love em. Lynn Hull
(E-mail receive 14 May 2003 from Lise Norgen)
The real story can be found at:
Urban Legends Reference Pages:
(E-mail received 27 Jan 2003; Subject: Change is in the Air)
Stumbled upon your website. The “Bill” referred to is a
cousin of mine, Bill Bothwell of the Louisville, KY area. His wife e-mailed
these pictures to my mother at one point. [The pictures didn't come through
in the e-mail].
Timothy J. Fath
Someone emailed me a link to your site where the bird is trying to make a
nest in a car wash payment machine. I explained what is happening, but
figured I might as well send the info to you as well...
Question: Do these photos look digitally altered to you?
Answer: No, they are not altered. This machine is a perfect
bird house. Humans make bird houses with small openings like this and
are not amazed when birds move into them, even though how would they
know we built it as a bird house for them. This machine is built
almost exactly the same as a bird house, yet people are amazed when a
bird wants to move into it. The coins take up too much space on the
inside, and have to be removed, just as an old prior nest in a bird
house has to be removed.
Birds are usually attracted to shiny objects like coins, but it would
not have seen shiny coins through the machine, nor would they be shiny
inside the dark unlit machine, so it was in the machine before it knew
about the coins, scouting for a good safe dry place to make a nest.
The coins in the dark are not shiny, and nothing more than something in
the way of a good nesting place, so it took them out and dropped them on
the roof and under a tree, away from the new nesting place, as it may
old nest material as you don't want to draw attention to where your nest
As when a bird tries to build a nest on your balcony, and you keep
taking the nest material away everyday, it still comes back and tries
again. Thus here too, when more coins are placed into the machine, it
just tries to remove them again. Birds are very stubborn and do not
give up so easy.
It doesn't see too many people around this area, as they are always in a
car moving through to the car wash. The only guy around this machine is
the one who empties it once a week or so. Just as birds have no
problems with cars and building nests under highway underpasses and
bridges, this seemed like a safe nesting place with not too much OTHER
kinds of traffic.
There are birds around here constantly checking out our gutters and
nooks and crannies outside the office window, and trying to come inside
the window when the big vertical blinds are open as slits.
This instance of the bird trying to make a nest inside this machine is
not unusual at all. If it were an abandoned gas station, there would
already have been a nest with babies inside this machine.
":I got a real kick out of the bird Story: "Change is
in the Air"
After much research, I have narrowed down the bird's identification to a few
possibilities listed below.
or perhaps the Common Ruffled-Filcher. "
TR, from Seattle
"I publish the Self Service CarWash News --- a trade
journal that specializes in coin-op carwashes. One of my relatively new
subscribers encouraged me to check out the "Change Is In The Air" story on
your website. As he (and apparently a number of others), I got a real kick
out of it ... but for different reasons:
- First, the SSCWN, was the very first to print those pictures and the
real story more than 8 years ago.
- I was greatly amused by the "Selected Comments" that said the pics were
digitally altered. No way!!! Believe me --- I know Photoshop and I know
photography. And I know that the photo prints I rec'd many years ago and
printed (from the same lot seen on your website) were shot on regular good
ol' Kodak film by a regular good ol' boy carwash operator in Virginia ... a
person who did not even have a computer back in the early 90's!
- One glaring error in the story was the "$4000 on the roof" ---
that did not happen ... or certainly was not reported by the carwash
operator in question. But it was not unusual for that befuddled guy to find
as much as $80 in quarters on the ground by the changer every morning ...
until he caught the birds in the act ... and stuffed the change cup w/ a
towel at night/off hours.
- BTW --- since then, I have had several operators around the
country report very similar run-ins w/ starlings at their bill changers
Jarret J. Jakubowski
"I've been in computer graphics and graphic arts for more
than 25 years. The comment from Chris Purdom claiming the pictures are
retouched is probably nonsense. I've seen thousands of digitally modified
photographs, and I say it's highly doubtful that these were modified. Even
without zooming in, the shadows appear authentic, the coins in the bird's
mouth credibly placed. Even the masters leave artifacts while struggling to
get the tone and angle of a shadow to match the ambient, and adjusting the
perspective, hue, and
highlight/shadow of the inserted object; these appear to have no defects
that my eye can see. In any case, what is so improbable about this
phenomenon? Cute, yes. Uncommon, apparently. But it's not improbable; it
would have been more trouble to manufacture a hoax out of thin air than to
accept that this kind of thing can happen".
" Bird Story, where the birds were stealing
quarters from the car wash... Mike and I have it all figured out. The car
wash owner was paying the birds to poop on the cars so they would have to be
washed more frequently, but the scam got out of control when the birds got
greedy, so the owner played innocent and got the vendor to put the kabash on
" RE: bird story....AP service ran same (!)
picture 5~10 years ago, giving location in Stafford Co., Va. Monetary amount
given as $20. Have clipping on file".
"To Whom It Concerns:
I received the link to your website and the Bird Story via email. I looked
at the photos after reading your comments below. The bird has indeed been
digitally placed on the photos. The creator probably had pictures of a bird
entering and leaving a nest and combined them with the car wash photos.
However, the person is not an expert at this. There are several tell tale
signs. The first is that anything added to a jpeg photo will have jagged
edges around the object. In Starling1 picture, if you look at the bird's
perch zoomed in at 3:1 or higher, you will see straight lines of pixels.
Straight lines of pixels usually occur only around straight objects. The
bird is covering the top of the coin box so that it is not the straight
lines. There is also a "halo" around the bird. If the bird was in the photo
when the photo was taken, the halo would not exist. This is unique to
insertion of graphics. This halo is in all of the photos. In starling3, the
bird's wing is doing something striking, bending backwards and the visible
leg is in a rather curious position. Furthermore, the shadows do not match
the bird. If you look at the red sign above the bird's head, you will see an
area that is not a blend of pixels as the rest of the sign. In Starling4,
the bird's shadow does not match the angel of the rest of the shadows and
there are repeated areas of pixels that have been "cleaned" and does not
match the rest of the object. Finally, in Starling5, there is a white spot
on the wing. This white spot does not appear in the other photos. When you
zoom in on the spot, it is in the shape of a square. The square doesn't even
follow the contour of the bird. It is an interesting story and is plausible
but this is an Internet Legend. "
:"I was reading the comments about your bird story and found the comments
about the picture being digitally edited to be quite... paranoid? Picture
one: Straight lines... commonly on signs, white lines are used to "announce"
the sign better. Other than that, I don't see what he's talking about. As
far as a "halo"... Unless the bird has been saved by Christ, I think this
guy needs to stop trying to view these images at 2 in the morning after a
night out on the town. Picture 3: The birds wing does something "striking."
Bird wings are designed to flap that way for a reason... I don't know many
Starlings with front swept wings. Its leg in that "curious" position... I
would prefer it there than smashing it into the coin return. Picture 4: If
you really look at what the angle is, the shadow is correct, it appears to
be some time around noon for the shadown are cast downward. And for the
pixels... I don't see what he's talking about here either. Picture 5: As !
for the white spot, I don't see that either, I also don't see why he's
wasting his time telling people that some images are wrong... with that in
mind, I also don't know why anyone would spend that much time getting the
pictures and investigating them that far. Furthermore... Just to ease the
pain of anyone wondering the same question about me... I'm an unemployed
college student, I'm suppost to be wasting my time. BTW very interesting
story, I enjoyed it quite a bit".
looked at the Change is in the Air story about Starlings taking quarters.
Without being sure, I have a strong suspicion that this was done in
photoshop; That the Starlings were flying away with food put there for them,
and that the quarters and shadows were photoshopped in. What do you think? "
"I guess my only observation would be that the bird(s) seem to be
taking coins from the return change cup. The only people out any money
would be customers that failed to retrieve their change. The car wash owner
would not be out any money and have no reason to “catch” a thief.
Admittedly, $4,000 is a lot of lost change but, the money deposit slots are
clear in the picture and not accessible to birds.
If it was that easy for birds, wouldn’t a human or 2 have figured that out
San Diego, CA
" In 1991 I was in a car wreck in Tulsa,
OK. I ended up hand-rearing a starling as part of my recovery. I eventually
moved to Alaska and moved the bird with me, but was not able to keep him
when I moved to Callifornia. I left him with a girlfriend in Alaska and he
is still healthy and doing well.
I find the story VERY plausible and wouldn't be surprised if it did occur
twice (see comments on story). I learned much, much about these savvy little
creatures through library research and through personal experience.
Starlings are VERY curious little creatures and they love shiny, bright
objects. My bird had a "stash" in his cage of objects he had "stolen" while
flying free in the house. Rings, change, pebbles, pop tabs. He would scream
and peck me when I would clean out his "stash." I found my bird in
cupboards, the refrigerator, INSIDE coffee mugs and glasses, under the
couch, and in other unimaginable places. They are clever and adept at
getting into tight areas.
AND they are very smart! These birds actually seem to learn by interacting
with their social environment. Once the bird figured out that those bright,
shiny objects went into the machine, she would worry the problem until she
figured out how to retrieve some goodies for herself. They seem to be at
their happiest when investigating their environment (or bathing, but that's
Long Beach, CA