The adorable tufted cockatoos have adapted so well to the conditions of the big city that they have learned to quench their thirst in public drinking fountains and foraging in the streets. Some even learned how to open the lids of garbage cans to get food from there - and this phenomenon quickly became widespread.
Scientists have noticed that birds extremely quickly learned from their relatives to gut trash cans - now cockatoos are doing this in dozens of Sydney suburbs.
Cockatoo are not only noisy, but also extremely resourceful. Even when residents are weighed down the roof of their urns with bricks or stones, cockatoo find ways to knock the load to the ground. After that, hungry birds can crack the lid with their beak, prop it up with their head, or simply walk so that it completely flips over on its hinges, as shown in the video below:
This unique skill is now so widespread in Sydney that researchers have unwittingly drew attention to the ability of birds to mimic human behavior and learn from each other, a sign of cultural evolution.
The suspicions are based on hundreds of observations by townspeople. The research team, led by biologist Barbara Klump of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany, has collected 1,396 reports from residents of 478 Sydney suburbs reporting cockatoos opening bins and cans.
Until 2018, reports indicate that cockatoos exhibited similar behavior in just three suburbs of Sydney, each of which was fairly distant from the other two. However, since 2019, hacking skills have expanded dramatically to 41 surrounding areas - a very rapid leap.
However, not all cockatoos did the same job with trash cans. For example, in the far north of Sydney, cockatoos are more likely to bypass the right side of a bin holding on to the lid, while in downtown Sydney these birds may shake a cistern or bounce with a lid on their head.
It probably depends on who the birds were imitating when they first mastered the skill. It was noticed that older and more experienced cockatoos drive off young animals, forcing them to simply watch the process. It turned out that in more than 90% of cases, Sydney residents noticed that next to the cockatoo opening the trash can, there were always several birds, closely following the attempts of a relative. Such close observation is a great opportunity to transfer skill through social learning.
If the authors of the discovery are right and the birds really collectively mastered the looting of garbage cans - raccoons and seagulls have just got a serious competitor.