In Australia, humans and parrots are competing in an arms race to get to the trash

A sulfur-top cockatoo hopping around in a clump on the lid of a box. Credit: Barbara Clamp

Residents of southern Sydney, Australia have a long-running battle over trash – humans want to get rid of it, and cockatoos want to eat it. Sulfur-headed cockatoos that call the area home have a knack for getting into litter boxes, and people have used innovative devices to keep them away. Researchers detail the techniques used by both people and parrots in a study published September 12 in the journal current biology.

When I first watched a video of cockatoo Lead author Barbara Klamp, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior, says:

Cockatoos are driven by food waste. “They really like bread,” she says. “Once one opens the box, all the cockatoos in the vicinity will come and try to get something nice to eat.”

Birds usually open the boxes with their beaks and then maneuver themselves over a small ledge and flip the lid open. It is a societal affair. “We can actually show that this is a cultural trait,” Clamp says. “Cockatoes learn behavior from observing other cockatoos and within each group they sort of have their own style, so across a wide geographical range the techniques are more different.”

The sulfur-top parrot successfully pushed the bricks to open the lid of my home litter box. credit: Barbara Clamp/current biology

Human residents trying to keep the cockatoo away cannot fully close the container lids because the lids need to be opened when tilted by a robotic arm on the garbage truck. A survey conducted by researchers found that people placed bricks and stones on the lids of their boxes, tied water bottles to the top, ropes to prevent the lids from tipping over, used sticks to seal the hinges, and switched tactics once the cockatoo discovered them. . “There are even commercially available parrot locks for litter boxes,” Clamp says.

“It’s not just a file social education On the parrot’s side, but he’s also learned socially from the human side,” she says. People come up with new ways to protect themselves, but a lot of people actually learn it from their neighbors or the people on their streets, so they get inspiration from someone else.”

Clamp won’t say who she expects to win the race for control of the boxes, but she and her colleagues plan to look at how cockatoos’ behavior varies from season to season.

في أستراليا ، يتنافس البشر والببغاوات في سباق تسلح للوصول إلى القمامة

Shoes prevent the lid from opening. credit: Barbara Clamp/current biology

Clamp predicts that we’ll see more of these types of human-wildlife interactions in the future. “As cities expand, we will have more interactions with wildlife,” she says. “I hope there will be a better understanding and more tolerance towards the animals we share our lives with.”

Intelligent cockatoos learn through social interaction

more information:
Could opening a cockatoo litter box lead to an inventive arms race with humans? current biology (2022). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.008 And the… 0960-9822 (22) 01285-4

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