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Watch Clever Birds Help Clean Neighborhood’s Yard [Video]



  • After observing the magpies that lived in his yard, Hans thought why not build a machine to train them. 
  • Since he is an AI researcher specializing in robotics and computers, he thought of inventing something that ejects food in exchange for trash. 
  • As soon as the birds figured it out, they have been picking trash in their community.

A pair of birds have lived for 20 years in a scientist’s yard.

The magpies usually don’t stick their nose on his businesses, but when Hans Forsberg noticed that they got curious with his outdoor lanterns’ complicated locks, he thought of a great idea. 

“The magpies were looking for the paraffin candles that were in the lanterns,” he told The Dodo. “My curiosity was aroused … Could I challenge the magpies to solve missions?”

Tom is a researcher whose work is more on artificial intelligence and specializes in computers and robotics. Looking at the birds, he wondered if he could train them to pick up litters with the help of a machine. In return, they’d be getting food. 

“Finally, [I had] a hobby project where I got to start from scratch,” Hans said. “There were no how-tos to Google here — it was entirely up to me!”

So, he invented a workbench that would throw out food in exchange for metal scraps, bottle caps, and other trash that would be dropped inside the slot. At first, the birds were suspicious and avoided the machine. 

“They are quite neurotic so I had to have patience — the slightest change in the rig or equipment, and the adults would be suspicious for a day or so,” Hans said. “These have been the birds I have worked with for a few years.”

Things started to become interesting when the couple magpie built a nest in a nearby cherry tree and had four chicks that hatched in Spring. 

“These chicks started to investigate the machine after the adult parents were gone,” Hans said. “The chicks are braver — almost stupid like teenagers. One walked straight into our kitchen.”

Photo Credit: Hans Forsberg

Eventually one of them figured out what amazing thing the machine can do and since then picking up trash in exchange for food. Although, his siblings rather prefer to steal his food rewards. 

In the future, Hans hopes to train his bird neighbors to pick up more trash in the community like cigarette butts or fallen fruit. That may mean building another machine and retraining his bird friends, he’s always up for the challenge — and so are the magpies.

Source: The Dodo