In a new study published in Current Biology, researchers found that Goffin’s cockatoos can not only use tools but also combine multiple tools to complete a complex task, a skill previously only seen in humans and chimpanzees. The study showed that the birds were able to figure out the best tool to use and even transport the tools together before using them.
“Using Toolsets Like a Pro”
Out of the ten cockatoos involved in the study, seven were able to successfully execute the task of retrieving cashew nuts from a box by using a combination of a short, pointy stick and a long, flexible straw-like tool. Two birds, Figaro and Fini, completed the task on their first attempt in just 35 seconds, leaving the researchers stunned. New Study Reveals COVID-19 Virus Can Linger in Brain for Months.
In a series of experiments, the birds were tested on their ability to use tools in different situations. In one experiment, the birds were presented with a box that required either one or two tools to access the nut inside, at random. In the final experiment, the birds were presented with one of two boxes and two tools placed on a table, requiring the bird to collect the tools before retrieving the nut. Four out of five birds began to carry the tools together, indicating that they viewed the tools as a set.
“Flexibility of Behaviour Stuns Researchers”
According to the study’s first author, Antonio Osuna-Mascaró, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, the results of the experiment indicate that Goffin’s cockatoos “not only appear to be using toolsets but they know that they are using toolsets.” The senior author of the study, Alice Auersperg, a cognitive biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, was also surprised by the results, as the researchers were unsure if the birds would transport two objects together.
The cockatoos’ ability to act according to the problem at hand and their flexibility of behaviour were described as “stunning” by the researchers. This study not only highlights the remarkable abilities of Goffin’s cockatoos but also sheds light on the evolution of tool use in birds and their cognitive abilities.