Kea gath­er­ing info ‘like hu­man in­fants’

Waiheke Marketplace - - Out & About - NI­COLE LAW­TON

Prob­lem-solv­ing is of­ten thought of as a hu­man trait, but New Zealand’s cheeky green par­rot dis­plays it too, a new study has found.

The study is a joint ef­fort be­tween the Univer­sity of Auck­land and the Univer­sity of York in the United King­dom.

It found kea can learn about ob­jects that are po­ten­tial tools, and ap­ply that knowl­edge to new sit­u­a­tions.

The study’s re­sults were pub­lished in The Royal So­ci­ety, Open Sci­ence on Wed­nes­day.

It also pro­filed the kea’s equally crafty cousin, the New Cale­do­nian crow.

Kiwi sci­en­tist and co-author Alex Tay­lor said it helped to ex­plain some of the birds’ be­hav­iours.

‘‘We know keas ... love rip­ping wind­screen wipers off cars and tear­ing into ruck­sacks,’’ Tay­lor said. ‘‘But we didn’t know why.’’ The cun­ning birds use play be­hav­iours to pick up in­for­ma­tion about their world.

They then might be able to put that in­for­ma­tion into good use later, he said.

The first ex­per­i­ment tested the birds’ per­cep­tion of weight as a po­ten­tial tool.

They were given blocks of vary­ing weights which they had to drop into a con­trap­tion to re­ceive a peanut.

How­ever, only the heav­ier blocks would open the food chute.

An­other ex­per­i­ment looked at the birds’ per­cep­tion of rigid­ity and struc­ture.

They were given a se­lec­tion of rope lengths, some of which had stiff wire pushed through them.

The birds were then able to use the wire to push a treat through a clear tube.

The study found the birds were bet­ter at choos­ing tools when they had ‘ex­plored’ them com­pared to when they had not.

‘‘Both kea and crows did bet­ter than could be ex­plained by chance alone,’’ Tay­lor said.

Many species ex­plore and play with ob­jects.

Kea dif­fered in their abil­ity to prob­lem-solve, which was of­ten thought of as a hu­man trait, he said.

‘‘Much like hu­man in­fants, the birds’ ex­ploratory per­son­al­ity al­lows them to gather im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about their phys­i­cal world.’’ ❚ Missed your pa­per? Go to fixmy­de­liv­ to get it go­ing again or phone 09 525 2022 or send an email to cir­cu­la­

Kea are renowned for their play­ful, cu­ri­ous and crafty na­ture.

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