I was fully and completely prepared to write a post about the recent reveals at D23 Expo this past weekend...but then was distracted and entertained by an article I saw over on Gizmodo about a battle between Australians and Cockatoos in the suburbs of Sydney.
Birds are smart - so much so that I often wonder why the term "bird brained" is an insult. Cockatoos in Syndey, Australia have apparently learned to open trash bins, and the technique is catching on between other groups of cockatoos across a multitude of areas. Ornithologist Richard Major first observed the birds opening the lids to scavenge for food a number of years ago and was impressed by their ingenuity. He, along with a team of other researchers in Germany, set about studying how many cockatoos had learned this trick.
In early 2018, the team documented the phenomenon in just 3 suburbs. By late 2019, it had spread to over 44 suburbs. They analyzed around 160 videos of the clever birds lifting bin lids and assessed the geographic spread to come to the conclusion that most of the birds learned this trick by watching others.
Opening a bin is quite a feat of skill for a bird, honestly - they need to first grasp the lid in their beaks and pry it open, then shuffle far enough along the bin's edge so that the lid falls backwards to reveal their prize inside. Like a hot new dance move, the trend had caught on among their avian peers and now it's widespread.
Scientists have documented other examples of social learning in birds, like blue tits that learned to puncture the foil lids of milk bottles in the UK back in the 1920s. Researcher Barbara Klump collected data on a rubbish collection day back in the summer of 2019, where she filmed nearly 200 successful efforts by the birds.
Most of them were males, which tend to be dominant in social hierarchies and larger than their female counterparts. Klump said, "This suggests that if you're more socially connected, you have more opportunities to observe and acquire new behavior - and also to spread it."
Adding further interest and entertainment to the research are the efforts that humans have adopted while trying to deter the cockatoos from their quarry. Some of them even caught the culprits on film while they tried to devise the best anti-avian method for trash theft prevention!
Are any of our forum friends in Australia and have you experienced any of these shenanigans first-hand? If so, I really wanna hear about it! Please share with me!