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Bird-brained? Not parrots who tooled up to win a meal

By John von Radowitz

Published 17/11/2016

Goffin's cockatoo Dolittle making a tool from an unfamiliar material
Goffin's cockatoo Dolittle making a tool from an unfamiliar material
The finished article

Parrots have used their creative bird-brains to make tools from unfamiliar materials.

The Goffin's cockatoo, a native of Indonesia, is not known to use tools in the wild or to have evolved the ability to build nests.

Yet four captive birds demonstrated a striking level of lateral thinking by constructing tools to retrieve food placed out of reach.

The hand-raised parrots - Figaro, Dolittle, Kiwi and Pipin - had to fashion a tool at least 6cm long that could be poked through a hole to dislodge a piece of cashew nut.

Success would be rewarded by the nut being knocked off its platform and sliding down a ramp to appear through an opening.

Four materials which had to be manipulated in different ways were offered to the birds. Only one, a block of larch wood, was familiar to them. The others were leafy beech twigs, cardboard and a lump of natural beeswax.

Astonished researchers watched as the parrots tore off splinters of larch wood, trimmed twigs, and cut out appropriately sized pieces of cardboard which they used to obtain the food. The only material none of them had any luck with was the beeswax.

Study co-author Professor Alex Kacelnik, from Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said: "These cockatoos, like other parrots, offer wonderful research opportunities: their intelligence is flexible and powerful."

Belfast Telegraph

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