English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Clever parrots use golfing skills to get a treat!

Using its skills to manipulate the tools the cockatoo gets the ball to fall on the trapdoor and release the treat (Pic. Courtesy ARS TECHNICA)

The capability of using simple tools to accomplish a job is not limited to primates and one creature which displays this is cockatoos, one of the parrot species. As per an article in sciencedaily.com, the study of these birds as per scientists of Vienna’s University of Veterinary Medicine, and Universities of Vienna and Birmingham, will provide insights in understanding how our forebears developed the ability to create and use tools.

The details of this research were published in Scientific Reports. The study is part of the project comparing innovation and the skills of problem solving in children with that of cockatoos.

Animals rarely use tools and more so the compound ones where two elements are involved like a spear or an axe and composite types where two items, for example a rock and stick are used jointly.  These types of tools led to games such as cricket, golf and hockey and the design of the study was inspired by that.

Also read: Brainy parrots may need psychological help when kept captive

For the study an experiment was conducted in which a golf game was designed for Goffin’s cockatoo. This species is widely accepted for its skills to solve problems and the capacity to use single tools – like opening seed and nut shells using sticks.

They had to work on a ball in a closed box through a hole and using a stick push it to one end to make it trigger a trapdoor mechanism – releasing a cashew nut for the bird.

Of the lot, three birds managed to use the stick to manoeuvre the ball into the right position and free the treat thus displaying the skill of tool innovation of a high order.

Sharing details about the experiment, Dr Antonio Osuna-Mascaró who is the lead researcher and from the University of Veterinary Medicine, said: "One of the most amazing aspect of the process was to observe how these animals each invented their own individual technique in how to grip the stick and hit the ball, sometimes with astonishing dexterity. One of the birds operated the stick while holding it between the mandibles, one between the beak tip and tongue and one with his claw, similar to a primate."

Sarah Beck, the study’s co-author whose focus area is associations between children and birds in learning the use of tools, remarked: “Although children are very good at using tools and technology in their lives (think spoons and ipads!), our research has shown that young children often find it hard to invent novel solutions to problems involving tool use. In fact, children under 8 can really struggle to solve problems that cockatoos can master.”

Also read: Unfazed by a broken beak, survivor Parrot overcomes disability in style

Beck who is a Professor of Cognitive Development in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham added: “So while this study is the first to show that cockatoos can coordinate tools to solve a problem, it also feeds into our ongoing work with children. Tempting as it might be — it's not simply a question of who is the cleverest: children or cockatoos — instead comparing such different species helps us understand how humans and some other species develop impressive technological skills."