For just four dollars, you can socialise with the wild cockatoos of the Dandenong Ranges, less than an hour's drive out of Melbourne's Eastern Suburbs.
The cafe next door, Grants on Sherbrooke, sell vouchers to be traded in for trays of seed at the bird feeding arena, with the trays being full enough to occupy the birds for ten or fifteen minutes.
When you arrive, the birds fly down from the towering trees nearby and roost in a small leafless tree within the arena, or on the railing around it. You can head over to the rail and feed the birds. Alternatively, if you are patient, the ice will break and they'll come to you.
They'll either land on your tray or your arm or shoulder. They are much more solid and heavy that you might expect life at Grants on Sherbrooke is a constant buffet for them, after all. Wear long sleeves because their talons can be sharp.
One of the best parts of the experience is the different personalities of the birds. Some are shy, others are cocky. Some are gentle, others are bullies.
The competition for seed brings out possessiveness in some, patience in others
Some have panic attacks when a tray falls from the railing, sending all the birds back to the trees in a chain reaction.
There are other birds present too, such as rosellas and galahs, but they tend to avoid competing with the cockatoos, meaning you have to enjoy them from a distance.
The best time to feed the birds is with a moderate crowd. If the crowd is too big, such as when a tourist bus drops by, the birds can be a bit more skittish and you are also vying for attention. If the crowd is too small, the birds might prefer to eat the seed off of the ground rather than out of your hand or your tray.
There is no guarantee the birds will be present, or interested, but there is a fairly good hit rate. Two out of three times I've been, the cockatoos have been social. The one time they weren't, it was because an eagle was circling.
It's definitely worth the risk, just to meet the characters.
'Excussssse me' a bird struggling to cope with the waiting time
Additionally, the trip to the Dandenong gives you plenty of opportunities to extend your adventure into a day trip. From Grants on Sherbrooke, it is not far from the relaxed town of Olinda, the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, Burkes Lookout or various walks through the fragrant and lush rainforest that characterises the area.