Kea gathering info ‘like human infants’
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 fixmydelivery.co.nz to get it going again or phone 09 525 2022 or send an email to email@example.com.