No, it is not a animal experimentation. It is a purely appetitive and strictly non-invasive study for these 11 adult cockatoos (7 males, 4 females). The objective is to know if these volatiles are capable of solving a problem by using associative tools. Facing them, the Golf Club Task. These birds will therefore play golf to try to win a reward. The intelligence they have demonstrated is impressive.
By this feat, the Goffin’s Cockatoo came closer to their fellows, the parrots of the corvids, in the race of the most intelligent birds. And on the animal side, chimpanzees are the only species capable of using composite tools. Among other things, they use a hammer and an anvil to crack nuts.
Except that these 11 birds have also passed this milestone thanks to the experiment designed by the biologist Antonio Osuna-Mascaró, lead author of the study, and his colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.
Cockatoos already seasoned
Of course, these 11 cockatoos are no ordinary birds chosen at random. They were born in captivity, then purchased fromaccredited European breeders. But what makes them special is that they have already been subjected to tooling experiments, including stick and ball-based tools. But this time, they will have to use two tools and understand the working mechanism of the Golf Club Task.
The latter is completely transparent and has two parts: a base in plexiglass with a green carpet reminiscent of a golf course and two foldable platforms on each side. Under these platforms are the loot (cashew nuts). There is a front grille on the device with a hole in the middle. The birds will have to use a white ball and a wooden stick.
The researchers gave them a session with 5 consecutive tries of 5 min maximum. But long before, the cockatoos had received information on the folding capacity of the two platforms.
They were able to invent their own method
The results are quite amazing. In fact, 5 out of 11 cockatoos managed to solve the problem. 3 birds stand out from the crowd (2 males, 1 female), because they had found the solution within the test criteria. Moreover, Figaro, Pipin and Fini have all used different techniques. In fact, all 5 reduced their trial time once they understood how the device worked.
What is impressive, according to the researchers, is the ability of these birds to invent a method to achieve the goal. Indeed, one of the cockatoos managed to use the stick as a lever to overturn the box. But that doesn’t fit the criteria which was to first put the ball in the hole in the center and hit it with the stick to the side.
It is also interesting to note that the birds were able to immediately identify and memorize the steps necessary upon their initial success. On the other hand, none of the cockatoos replicated the techniques of another exactly. A fact confirmed by researchers: they learn by emulation and not by imitation.