A sharp mind sits in these little bird's heads: Many studies already prove the amazing cognitive performance in tool use of the Goffin cockatoos. Not only can you use them cleverly, you can also make them yourself. Only a few species such as some primates or the New Caledonian crows are also able to do so. "Goffin cockatoos use sticks or other aids to obtain rewards that are otherwise unattainable for them, " explains Alice Auersperg from the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. When a tool has served its purpose, the birds usually drop it. "We now wanted to find out if the learning birds also understand that a tool can or must be reused, " says the behavioral scientist.
Eating without giving up the proven tool
To investigate this question, the researchers presented their experimental animals with a special task: they confronted them with rows of boxes, each containing a delicious nut, which the birds could only use as a tool to push them into their reach. A number of these boxes were near the ground, the other increased. The birds should now show if they realize that they will need their tools for further reward.
It became apparent that the birds quickly realized that the tool was precious and treated it even differently according to the situation. With the boxes near the ground, the danger was not so great as to lose the stick, so the birds just simply stored it in one of their claws, pecking at the reward with their beak and pouting. Presumably, to ensure increased safety, the parrots were the stick in the high-lying boxes, however, often in the last used box stuck and also held it with his foot, the researchers report.
"The clever parrots were soon clear that they have to treat the tool prudently, especially in the higher boxes, " said Auersperg. "When the cockatoos dropped the stick, they had to get it back from the ground so they could get to the next nut. With that the effort was increased and under less controlled conditions the reward could be gone, "explains the behavioral scientist. display
According to the researchers, it was also striking that the individual animals used different strategies, all of which served the same purpose: securing the tool. While some of them almost always kept the stick in their claws, others pressed it against the food boxes with their bodies and another one put it down for a short time each time.
To operate the boxes, the animals also had to adjust their movement patterns. Therefore, the birds tested how best they could with their sticks to the next feed box and at the same time could feed and hold. Once the birds had optimized their movement, they kept it to the last food box, the researchers observed.
"The fact that the cockatoos can deal with tricky situations, they have already proven to us in previous studies. But in this experiment, they showed that even the prospect of food can not distract them from taking care of their tools and continuing to use them, "Auersperg sums up.
- Communication from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna