Study shows Cockatoos can invent and use tools
COCKATOOS are even cleverer than they were known to be, matching apes and human fouryear-olds.
Austrian scientists have spent years testing the abilities of six Goffin’s cockatoos — named Dolittle, Figaro, Kiwi, Konrad, Pipin and Fini — at a special laboratory in Vienna. Cockatoos are known to be able to pick locks and match shapes, but the scientists have now shown that the birds are capable of working out how to tear cardboard into long strips as tools to reach food. What they couldn’t do was adjust the strip width to fit through narrow openings.
The Goffin’s cockatoo (Cacatua goffiniana) is a type of parrot. Captive Goffins are capable of inventing and manipulating tools, even though they aren’t known to use tools habitually.
The authors of the new study investigated two questions: do Goffins adjust tool properties to save effort, and if so, how accurately can they adjust tool dimensions for the task?
The authors supplied six adult cockatoos with large cardboard sheets to tear into strips as tools for the testing apparatus: a food platform with a food reward set at varying distances (4-16 cm) behind a small opening, which also varied in width (1-2 cm).
They found that the Goffins were capable of adjusting the length of their cardboard strip tools to account for variations in food distance, making shorter tools when the reward was closer than when it was set farther away. In every case, if a first-attempt tool was too short, the second-attempt tool would be significantly longer.
On average, all six birds made significantly longer tools than were required to reach the reward in all test conditions, with the birds tending to make increasingly long tools as the study progressed — perhaps as a risk-avoidance strategy.
However, only one bird was able to make a sufficiently-narrow tool to successfully reach the food reward when the opening was at its narrowest.
The authors hypothesise that the shearing technique the birds use to tear the cardboard limits the narrowness of the resulting strips.
The authors suggest that future studies provide less restrictive materials to assess whether Goffins are cognitively capable of adjusting tool width in this situation.
— Phys.org, Witness Reporter.