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Council bin trial latches on to cockatoos trashing neighbourhood

Council gets clever to outsmart bin-hungry cockatoos

Cockatoos have been opening kerbside bins and littering Western Sydney so routinely that a council is now trialling locks on bins.

Campbelltown City Council has implemented a 12-month trial “to test the effectiveness of bin latches to prevent birds from opening bin lids”, a spokesperson said.

Dr John Martin at The Lab of Animal Ecology at Western Sydney University told The New Daily the reason the birds are targeting bins is because they are a food source.

“We need to think about the bins as a smorgasbord or a treat, where they can get different food that is not available normally,” Dr Martin said.

Campbelltown local Maureen McCann told the ABC that cockatoos raiding bins have been a persistent problem for years, and the bigger issue is how full some bins are when put out into the street.

“If [a plastic bag] is sticking out of the bin, all they’ve got to do is pull the plastic,” she told the ABC. 

Campbelltown Council released a statement about the bin-latch experiment, with guidelines residents must meet to qualify for the trial:

  • They must reside in Ruse, Airds, St Helens Park, Kentlyn or Minto Heights, with proof of residency required
  • Must have an ongoing issue with birds creating litter problems from their bins
  • Commit to providing regular feedback via online surveys for a 12-month period
  • Be responsible for the installation of the latches on the bins
  • Agree to all the terms and conditions before signing up
  • Must be able to collect the latches from council’s administration centre – 91 Queen St, Campbelltown, during operating hours.

Learning fast

As of 2019, there had been reports of cockatoos exhibiting this behaviour from residents in 44 areas across Australia, with it quickly spreading to nearby neighbourhoods, detailing how widespread this may become.

“So it’s likely the birds are going to continue to have this behaviour in the landscape – whether that’s moving to some neighbouring areas or cracking the locks some time in the future,” Dr Martin said.

Furthermore, he stated that the locks are not a sure-fire way of keeping the birds out of your garbage.

“We do know that the locks aren’t always used and that they can malfunction, and the birds are persistent.”

In this case, Campbelltown Council has given three tips for its residents to succeed in keeping out cockies.

They have asked locals not to overfill their bins; ensure recycling is clean and there is no food residue, and finally, to double bag waste, adding an extra layer of protection in case the birds work out the locks.

Dr Martin reiterated that this is not normal behaviour for cockatoos, and said any help in reporting when and where they are getting into bins is highly appreciated.

“This is a very odd behaviour,” he said.

“We are trying to figure out how it is spreading across our landscape through reports to our project Big City Birds using our app or website.”

Topics: Environment
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