He shared it with Barbara Klump and Lucy Aplin, both researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany – and they were immediately fascinated.
“It was so exciting to observe such a smart and innovative way to access a food source, we knew immediately that we had to systematically study this unique food search behavior,” Klump, a postdoctoral researcher at the institute, said in a statement. for the press.
It is a five-step process for birds to open the hive lid, according to the study. The bird should open the lid with its beak, twist the neck sideways and jump to the edge of the cauldron, keep it open with its beak or foot, walk along the edge, and finally open the lid open.
It is difficult to demonstrate the evolution of new behaviors in animals for two reasons, said Major, chief research scientist at the Australian Museum. First, it is difficult to detect behaviors when they first arise because they start out as rare cases before they spread. Second, if populations in two different locations behave differently, it is difficult to say whether this is due to a change in the animals themselves or their environments.
This is why Sydney Carnation with Carnation, a highly social parrot common in all East Coast cities, provided a rare opportunity. The whole country uses the same standardized garbage can – and cocoa lives in one of Australia’s largest cities, which means there are millions of people who can help observe their behavior.
The research team launched an online survey asking Sydney residents if they had seen cocoa lifting litter bins for food.
Prior to 2018, this behavior was reported in only three suburbs – but by the end of 2019, that number had risen to 44 suburbs, according to the study. And the behavior spread to nearby neighborhoods faster than it reached distant ones, indicating that the new behavior was not appearing by chance.
“These results show that the animals actually learned the behavior from other cocoa in their vicinity,” Klump said in the announcement.
The researchers also marked cocoa with dots of ink to find out which ones had learned to open the trash cans – which turned out to be only 10% of the birds. The other cocoas waited, then helped themselves after the trash cans were opened.
And not all birds open trash cans the same way – the team found that regional subcultures had emerged among cocoa, which had distinct styles and approaches. For example, in late 2018, a cockatoo in northern Sydney recreated the technique by opening the lids in a different way, causing birds in neighboring districts to copy the behavior.
“There are different ways to do it (opening the lids),” the Major said. The fact that the groups developed different ways of doing this was “evidence that they learned behavior from each other, rather than solving the puzzle independently.”
It may seem like an insignificant discovery – that birds can open lids differently – but it’s significant because it proves that animals can learn, share and develop subcultures, Major said. He compared it to human dance, as each culture has its own and how countries that are geographically close may have more similar dance styles than in distant lands.
The study sheds more light on how animals evolve in urban centers. There are always “winners and losers” as cities expand and land use changes, the Major said – and animals that can adapt to new environments emerge as winners.
There are many other species that feed – most importantly, the largest ibis, known as the “basket hen”, which digs through the garbage of the city. But “it ‘s easy for an ibis to see food in a basket and get food from it,” the Major said. “For a cockatoo to set up a basket to find food, this is another level of puzzle solving.”
“Cockatoos are expanding their diet so they are able to take advantage of opportunities in an urban environment,” he added. “I hope our research helps us learn to live with them, as well as they learn to live with us.”