Who’s a clever cockatoo?
Cockatoos are known for their intelligence, having previously demonstrated the ability to pick locks, match shapes and even ride miniature bicycles along a tightrope.
But now scientists have discovered they are far cleverer, rivalling apes and human four-year-olds in their ability to invent and fashion complex tools to reach food.
Austrian scientists spent years testing the abilities of Goffin’s cockatoos named Dolittle, Figaro, Kiwi, Konrad, Pipin and Fini at a laboratory in Vienna.
Now they have demonstrated the birds are capable of sizing-up the length of poking device needed to reach seeds through a hole in a perspex box, and then make it from a piece of cardboard. Even when scientists moved the seeds closer to the hole, the cockatoos took a quick glance then designed a smaller tool that saved effort.
‘‘The way the animals show flexibility in their toolmaking behaviour between different distances, suggests that they at least learn to pay attention to different conditions’’ said Dr Alice Auersperg, of the University of Vienna, the head of the Goffin Lab.
‘‘As longer cardboard strips required more parallel bitemarks we have a continuous increase in investment in the manufacture of longer tools and it is likely that the animals were able to save effort.
Nevertheless, they did eventually fall into a strategy of making long tools most of the time as they became more efficient or as a strategy of avoiding the risk of having to discard a tool of insufficient size. It has been shown that parrots and corvids [the crow family] often rival the great apes in performance in cognitive tasks and they also seem to have similar neuron counts in the cortex-like areas of their brains as higher primates.’’
Only very few animal species, such as the great apes and a few birds, can use or even make their own tools to fish for out-of-reach food. Chimpanzees are known to use sticks to poke into termite mounts, while crows can bend metal hooks to reach food at the bottom of a bottle.
However, making different tools for different situations represents a bigger cognitive challenge. Experts think Goffin’s cockatoos have developed such abilities because they are island birds, native to Indonesia, where they feed on a variety of foods and have devised a range of strategies to get their dinner. – Telegraph Group
A Goffin cockatoo tears off a strip of cardboard to use as a tool to reach food.