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Birds Target Red Cars, According to Car Cleaning Company

Posted on the 25 June 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Birds target red cars, according to study. Birds target red cars, according to study.

The background

Birds are more likely to defecate on your car if it’s crimson.

This groundbreaking news came from Halfords, a UK auto accessories and cleaning company, which tasked its researchers with finding out which color cars were most likely to bear bird droppings. The study recorded how often birds “left their mark” on 1,140 cars in Brighton, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol over two consecutive days; they found that across the board, 18 percent of red cars were marked with droppings, blue 14 percent, black 11 percent, white 7 percent, grey/silver 3 percent, and green 1 percent.

Halfords also noted that the British Trust for Ornithology were less inclined to see a causal relationship between car color and bird defectation, and quoted a Trust spokesman explaining, “We do know that birds can be attracted to certain colours during display but [droppings on cars] is probably more to do with where you park; if you park where birds roost then you are going to get more droppings on your vehicle.”

This press release was picked up by a blogger at USA Today and essentially reprinted by The Daily Mail – but not everyone is willing to take it at face value.

Nice PR trick

This is an example of the “biggest orange in the bowl” trick, said Tumblr blog Bad PR. Pointing out that The Daily Mail, where this story ran, is “the worst culprit, of anything, generally”, Bad PR noted that the article there was mostly lifted from the Halfords’s press release – and had even embellished the original, claiming that it was “scientists” who studied this phenomenon. But the “trick” is this, Bad PR explained: “in a closed data set, something has to be the ‘most’ in any given criteria.” The blog continued, “This isn’t necessarily research, it’s merely common sense – at every school sports day, someone has to win the egg and spoon race, but this doesn’t mean they’re the best egg-and-spooners in the world, they just beat the other people in the race.”

Check out a side-by-side comparison of the Mail story and the press release at Churnalism.com.

Study won’t change how we live

Louis Peitzman at Gawker picked up the story on Sunday, and observed that the study didn’t really offer much in the way of explanation as to why red cars seemed to bear the brunt of bird droppings. “With only 1,100 cars inspected and no real conclusions drawn, this study is more of a novelty than a way to live one’s life. But hey, if you’re deciding between red and green, and you need something to push you one way or the other, perhaps consider the likelihood that your car will attract bird poop. On the other hand, who wants to drive a green car?”

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