Cockatoos know how to pick the right tools for the job

By | February 18, 2023

The New York Times reports:

Cockatoos contain contradictions.

“They behave like gremlins,” said Antonio Osuna-Mascaró, a biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.

His colleague Alice Auersperg agreed.

“Imagine a toddler with pliers in their head,” she said, that is also able to fly.

But just like toddlers, cockatoos can be sweet and curious, always exploring the world around them.

Dr. Auersperg and other researchers showed the innateness of this curiosity in 2021, when they reported that wild Goffin’s cockatoos use tools. The researchers observed birds, temporarily housed in a field aviary, using their beaks to fashion three tools — a wedge, a knife and a spoon — to help them pry open tropical Wawai fruits, “like a set of cutlery,” Dr. Auersperg said. It was clear the cockatoos were crafting different tools for different purposes, known as a tool set, but a critical question remained: Did the birds see the tools that way?

In a study published Friday in Current Biology, Dr. Osuna-Mascaró, Dr. Auersperg and their colleagues showed that the cockatoos are only the third animal, besides humans and chimpanzees, known to select varying tools based on the tasks they expect to face. [Continue reading…]

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