Thursday, 12 February 2015

Crafty Cockatoo

A mug shot of the robber cockatoo
A few days ago I noticed that someone had seemed to have left the lids off the bins used to store the chicken food - we have chickens roaming free-range in our back yard. Then I saw the lids off again and thought there must be something else to the tale. So, I set up a camera-trap for security surveillance.

It wasn't long before the culprit was caught red-billed. It was a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita who was raiding the bins. These are regular, daily, visitors to the garden and they often roost with us up in a high gum tree. They are well-known to be clever birds, so I was not greatly surprised to see who the villain was, but I was surprised at how quickly it adapted to overcome my defences.

Watching from atop the chicken shed

The cocky found it too easy to flip off the lids themselves, even the clip-on lid of the larger bin, so I placed bricks on top of the lids. But, still too easy. The bird simply stepped onto an adjacent bin or tree stump to gain a firm base then used its strong bill to lever open the lids, casting the bricks aside with the lever action. To watch a two minute video of the crafty cocky click here.

The bird opened the large bin first, but as that only contained chicken pellets, it wasn't too happy. It had obviously been watching me feed the chickens and wild birds, noting that I was taking seeds, especially sunflower seeds out of the bins, but which one? It didn't take long to open them all and dive into the bottom of the white bins for the sunflower seeds.

It looked like there was only one bird that had learned how to open the bins as others came and tried, but with no luck. The trick was in stepping back and using the leverage. The clever bird reaped the reward first, facing off contenders before eventually allowing more to join in the feast as it became more satisfied.

There were seven or eight in the flock at one stage, until I heard the commotion and stomped down to the far end of the garden to chase them off.

And the solution - two bricks on each bin, with the bins far enough apart to deny any leverage.

Caught in the act

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