Father-Son Litter Gadget Give Birds Offer They Can’t Refuse

Feb 24, 2022

A father-son duo in Sweden has put some very smart birds to work picking up litter for food.

Tomas Morsing and his son, Olaf, built a trash-pickup machine that rewards magpies with seed when they drop trash into their bin. In 10 months, the Morsings recorded 5,000 visits by birds trading trash for food.     

“We wanted to show the potential of intelligent birds and to demonstrate a way to solve a real problem,” 20-year-old Olof Morsing told the South West News Service. 

The Morsings picked the right birds. Magpies aren’t just smart, but they're among the most intelligent flying creatures in the bird kingdom. Scientists have reported that if you put a sticker on a magpie and place the bird in front of a mirror, the bird will try to peel it off. Less intelligent birds will simply peck at their reflections.  

The Morsings used a feeder on a platform with trash scattered on it to train the birds. When magpies accidentally pushed a piece of trash into the correct hole they were instantly rewarded with food. The experiment worked. More birds got the idea and dropped trash scraps into the hole to get fed.    

Tomas Morsing, 57, worried that the clever ones in the flock might cheat the system by dropping rocks and sticks. But the birds kept bringing trash.

So maybe these birds aren’t THAT smart.     

Photo from The Good News courtesy of YouTube.

According to information in the story, what happened after the bird feeder had been in use for 10 months? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. Birds started bringing sticks and stones to cheat the system.
b. Birds stopped coming to the bird feeder.
c. The father and son had recorded 5,000 visits by birds bringing in trash.
d. The father and son began to make more bird feeders.
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