A captive-bred Goffin’s cockatoo has surprised researchers by spontaneously making and using “tools” to reach food.
The species is not known to use tools in the wild.
Researchers in Austria recorded the cockatoo – named Figaro – repeatedly breaking off splinters from a wooden beam and using them to reach nuts on the other side of his wire enclosure.
The team believe Figaro’s feat is the first recorded instance of tool-making among 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.
While birds from the corvid family, such as New Caledonian crows, are known to make tools in the wild, this specialised ability is very rarely reported in other bird species.
Researchers were unexpectedly alerted to Figaro’s tool-using ability while he was playing with a pebble and accidentally dropped it out of reach on the other side of his wire mesh enclosure.
After some unsuccessful attempts to reach his toy with his claw, Figaro used a stick from the aviary floor to try to fish for the object, levering it with his beak.