The Science of Cockatoo Subcultures

Cockatoos haven’t made headlines like this since Snowball the avian dancing sensation.

Veteran bird researcher Richard Major was startled to see “good, self-respecting seed-eaters” dumpster diving around Sydney, including 1 cockatoo picnicking on a chicken drumstick. 

“Oh god, this is verging on cannibalism,” Major worried. He was determined to know more.  

To Major’s delight, other scientists enthusiastically joined the cockatoo crusade, and they all went sleuthing in suburbia to investigate how the cockatoos became such effective trash thieves.
 
What they discovered were bona fide cockatoo subcultures. Flocks who’d picked up the skill added regional flair by, say, shuffling their feet to pry open trash bins.
 
They may be billed a nuisance to Australia’s trash bin owners, but Major is firmly on Team Cockatoo and thinks the pleasure should be all ours: We’re “really very lucky to have such charismatic birds sharing our cities.”
 
NPR

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