Cockatoos don’t just use tools, they carry a whole set of tools for more complex jobs


The ability to solve problems with multiple tools is a rare talent in the animal kingdom, but according to a new study, cockatoo be the first bird on the block to carry and use a set of tools tailored to their needs.

Using 10 Goffin cockatoos, researchers from Austria and the United Kingdom discovered this after performing three experiments such as: published in the journal Current Biology Friday.

The Goffin cockatoo is a small white parrot native to the Tanimbar Islands in Indonesia. They were selected after researchers discovered them using a “toolkit” in the wild. In this study, cockatoos from the Goffin Laboratory in Vienna were used.

“We’ve seen them use a complex set of tools (in the wild), but we don’t know if they’re aware they’re using a set of tools or if it’s just a series of single tools that have been developed by us. use sequence,” Antonio Osuna Mascaró, an evolutionary biologist at the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine and lead author of the study, told CNN.

One of Goffin's parakeets flies with a tool in his mouth.

Previously, the only non-human animals known to use toolkits were chimpanzees, specifically the Goualougo Triangle chimpanzee from northern Congo, according to the study.

Inspired by the chimpanzee’s two-tool process of catching termites, which is to make holes in the mound with a blunt stick and then insert another rod to catch termites out, Osuna Mascaró and his team came up with ideas experimental design that mimics this process.

The birds can choose between a long, flexible tool and a shorter, more pointed tool.

Describing the first experiment, Osuna Mascaró said: “We gave them a problem where they had to take cashews out of a box, first by poking a hole in the membrane blocking it with a short stick, pointed and then removed it with a longer, flexible stick.”

To the surprise of the researchers, some parrots solved problems very quickly, with one bird taking just 31 seconds to do so on the first attempt.

Mark Briffa, associate dean in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Plymouth, told CNN that basic tool use is common in animals, but that the use of “a toolkit implies the ability to solve problem through the flexible application of some insight into a given situation… (which) this research shows convincingly.” Briffa was not involved in the study.

Set up for the third experiment, in which the parrots had to fly horizontally while carrying the instrument to the box on the right ledge.

Four cockatoos were unable to successfully complete the first experiment and one gave up after showing no interest. However, five people progressed to the next phase of the study. Briffa said it would be interesting to find out why some birds failed the mission.

The second experiment looked at tool versatility – whether cockatoos chose the right tools or tools for the right task. According to the study, this was done by randomly giving cockatoos a box that required a tool or two to get the nut. Cockatoos also pass this test.

The final test consisted of an additional challenge, adding different stages to the cashew box, towing gear – climbing, horizontal and vertical flight – to see if the birds could transport each appliance one or save energy by taking both together .

The box, which cockatoos can see in the first place, requires a tool or both.

The researchers found that the last four parakeets were able to transport both tools together when needed, even in flight, with the three birds managing it “remarkably” in a most remarkable way. shop.

This suggests they’ve learned to combine both tools and see them as a set, which Briffa says is “involving questions about the development of tool use and cognitive abilities as a background foundation for it.”

Overall, Osuna Mascaró says that by showing that cockatoos plan their tool use as required by the situation, this study is a first step towards looking at their cognitive abilities.

Speaking of next steps, Osuna Mascaró says one possible way is to compare the birds to human children.

“We found that each cockatoo has a different way of carrying and using the toolkit, which is interesting because cockatoos learn that through play and curiosity, just like a cockatoo,” he said. such person.

Speaking of broader implications, Briffa said the study is relevant to questions about animal sentience — the animal’s level of awareness and insight into their world.


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