Humans vs. Cockatoos: Intelligent Birds Teach Each Other How to Open Rubbish Bins (Video)

A new study has revealed that cockatoos are able to teach each other how to open rubbish bins. Scientists said sulphur-crest cockatoos in Sydney suburbs have a knack for getting into garbage. These birds can learn the trick by just watching their peers.

Tussle Over Garbage

And this has created somewhat of a tussle over trash between human residents in Australia and the cockatoos. The study highlighted that some human residents in Sydney and Wollongong stepped up their garbage-protection game after local sulphur-crested cockatoos started "shoving heavy rocks and bricks" off wheelie bins – letting the parrots swing the lid open and get inside.

Barbara Klump, a behavioural ecologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany, expressed amazement at the creativity householders showed when it came to protecting their wheelie bins from the persistent parrots. She pointed out that the cockatoos make a lot of mess when they open bins and take all the rubbish out, which of course the local residents are not too amused about.

Cockatoos are trying to lift the lid of a wheelie bin. ABC

Klump says stopping a cockie from getting into a wheelie bin isn't as simple as locking the lid down. She outlined that the lid must still be able to flip open far enough to dump its contents into the truck on collection day. As such, residents are protecting their bins and deploying a variety of measures to keep the cockatoos out. To learn more about the bird's behavioural patterns, a research team documented the phenomenon in three suburbs and found that it had spread to 44 surburbs.

Cockatoos Are Intelligent Parrots

Cockatoos are renowned for their intelligence. Various studies have shown that these birds are smarter than human toddlers. The research team established that the cockatoos learned by watching each other. The parrots grasp a bin lid their beaks and pry it open. They have to shuffle far enough along the bin's edge that the lid falls backwards – the birds' motivation is food waste. Klump shared that the cockatoos really like bread.

When one bird props up the bin's lid, all the cockatoos in the vicinity come and try to get something nice to eat. She described the birds' behaviour as a "cultural trait". The expert explained that the cockatoos learn the behaviour from observing other cockatoos and within each group they have their own special technique.

Wheelie Bin
This wheelie bin has been locked with a pair of shoes so that cockatoos cannot lift the lid. ABC

To overcome the cockatoos, local residents put bricks and stones on their bin lids, and strapped water bottles to the top. They are also set up ropes to prevent the lid from flipping, using sticks to block the hinges. But the intelligent cockatoos figured it out! Klump said it's also social learning on the human side. Some people come up with new protection methods, while some learn from their neighbours and people around.

Klump believes that as cities expand, there will be more interactions with wildlife. She hopes there will tolerance for the animals.