What, you think birds are dumb just because they pee uric acid and not urea? Well let this tickle your brain, you doubter: a captive-bred cockatoo named Figaro has been videotaped making its own tools. According to the Austria-based researchers who studied Figaro and published results in Current Biology, it’s the first time tool-making has been observed in parrots.
“No-one has ever reported [a parrot] sculpturing a tool out of shapeless wood in order to use it later with great sophistication,” said Professor Alex Kacelnik of Oxford University, an author of the study.
The story goes thusly: Figaro was playing with a stone one day, and it plopped out of his cage. He tried to grab it with his claws, but when that didn’t work, he found a stick and pulled the stone over. Now, it’s known that some parrots are extremely smart, and corvids like crows have been observed using tools. But to see a captive bird just pick up a stick and use it, without being previously shown how to, is extremely impressive.
After observing Figaro’s tool use, the research team put him through a series of tests requiring tools to solve. In one case, he couldn’t reach a tasty nut because the provided tool was too short. So he decided to make his own tool, biting and peeling off splinters from a piece of wood until he found a long, hooked piece that he used to yank in treats. It’s fascinating research, and suggests that the ability to use tools might be more widespread in the animal kingdom than we previously thought. But enough of that, I know you just want to watch Figaro in action. Enjoy:
Top image via the Daily Mail
Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @derektmead.