Tech

Cockatoos are figuring out how to open bins by copying each other

“Ah, so it just lifts up like this?”

Barbara Klump / Max Planck Insti

A few curious cockatoos learned how to open residential waste bins in Australia, and now other birds have started copying them, with incidences of bin-looting spreading across eastern Australia in easily traceable waves.

“If they had learned it individually, we would have seen this popping up randomly, but their method is really spreading from one suburb to the next,” says Barbara Klump at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour in Germany.

A few years ago, Richard Major at the Australian Museum Research Institute in Sydney filmed one of several sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) lifting a bin lid, and he shared the video with Klump’s colleague. Intrigued, the researchers asked suburbanites around Sydney and Wollongong to help them trace the phenomenon by reporting whether they saw, or didn’t see, incidences of bin-looting in their neighbourhoods.

When the team started the project in 2018, scientists had documented bin-opening by cockatoos in three suburbs. But by late 2019, based on 1396 reports, the birds were looting bins in 44 suburbs. Mapping the reported sightings, the scientists detected a clear pattern of knowledge-sharing as incidences spread geographically outward from the starting sites.

Video analyses reveal a complex five-step process, including prying, opening, holding, walking and flipping, all requiring particular head and leg movements around the lid and positioning on the base. The researchers suspect that only a handful of individuals figured out how to open bins on their own. Variations in the technique also apparently followed a geographical spreading pattern.

The team used small dots of paint to mark more than 500 birds in bin-raiding hotspots and found that about 10 per cent could open the bins. These were mostly bigger males, which might have found it easier to open the heavy lids or might have had more access to bins because they were more dominant, she says.

While “fascinating” to watch, cockatoos’ bin-looting creates “a big mess” because the birds throw out the rubbish they don’t want, says Klump. Preventing looting is difficult because locking the lids closed prevents proper functioning of automated dumping by waste trucks.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abe7808

More on these topics:

Most Related Links :
honestcolumnist Governmental News Finance News

Source link

Back to top button