In Sydney, Australia, humans and birds are in a fierce battle over one of the most precious resources: garbage. Over the past few years, a team of scientists has studied the sulfur-crowned parrots of the region. The parrot learned how to steal trash cans and even taught other parrots. And in a new study Monday, the team says it has begun devising its own ways for humans to keep birds out, with varying degrees of success.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany have long had an interest in deciphering the inner workings of animals around the world.last year they It was published Dive deep into the trash-stealing habits of Sydney’s Sulfur Crested parrots. They found that this practice appears to be an example of animal culture, a learned behavior that spread throughout South Sydney from birds in three suburbs. The parrots made subtle changes in behavior, such as opening the jar lid all the way and not opening it all the way. cheese).
Researchers told Gizmodo last year that they were interested in documenting the human side of this struggle. It was published Monday in the journal Current Biology.
“When I collected the data for the original study describing parrot bottle-opening behavior, I saw people attaching devices to their bottles to protect themselves from parrots, and people came up with all sorts of different things. “So I really wanted to investigate human responses to parrots,” lead author Barbara Klump, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute, told Gizmodo in an email.
To do so, they surveyed people living in areas plagued by these birds. The main obstacle to potential anti-parrot tricks is that bins It cannot be completely sealed as it is designed to open and spill its contents when lifted by the automatic arm of the garbage truck.But people keep coming up with different ways, such as placing a brick or stone on the lid, fixing the water bottle to the lid handle with cable ties, or using a stick to block the hinge. There are also locks available on the market that can be unlocked at the time of pickup. here).
Unfortunately for humans, parrots have learned how to defeat a few simple tricks. But just as birds are adapting, people are quickly developing counters. Although seemingly engaged, Klump hesitated to describe it as a full-blown war.
“When parrots learn to defeat this safeguard (e.g., by pushing bricks aside so they can open blocks), people who participated in our study reported increasing the effectiveness of the safeguard. (e.g. by securing something heavy to the lid so that it doesn’t get pushed out.) What we found is that the protection (and types of protection) of bins is clustered geographically. , people are learning about them from their neighbors,” said Klump.
According to the researchers, this whole story is a preview of the increasingly common interactions between people and wildlife as we continue to build bigger cities and encroach on wildlife habitats. It is possible. Some animals, like these parrots, may find new ways to adapt to our existence, but many others do not. interactions can be harmful to humans, such as the emergence of new ones. zoonotic disease.
What exactly happens next is anyone’s guess. “You can imagine that continuing to escalate (i.e. parrots learn to beat higher level protection types and people come up with even better devices to protect their bins). , or one party could “win” the arms race, Crump said.
The team plans to continue researching the underlying learning mechanisms that made these parrots become capable garbage collectors, and will work on developing new measures aimed at keeping them out of the garbage hoard. , wants to document how proficient they can be.