Cockatoo Can Make His Own Tools (Video)

November 6, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

A Goffin’s cockatoo has been observed making and using tools to reach objects, including food.

Named Figaro, the domesticated bird lives in Austria, and has been filmed making long wooden splinters from his aviary to retrieve out-of-reach objects. This species is not known to use tools in the wild.

“During our daily observation protocols, Figaro was playing with a small stone,” explained study lead author Alice Auersperg at the University of Vienna in a press release. “At some point he inserted the pebble through the cage mesh, and it fell just outside his reach.”

“After some unsuccessful attempts to reach it with his claw, he fetched a small stick and started fishing for his toy.”

The researchers then placed a nut where the pebble had been and filmed the bird’s response.

“To our astonishment he did not go on searching for a stick, but started biting a large splinter out of the aviary beam,” Auersperg continued. “He cut it when it was just the appropriate size and shape to serve as a raking tool to obtain the nut.”

The team was already surprised to see the bird using a tool, but did not expect him to make his own.

“From that time on, Figaro was successful on obtaining the nut every single time we placed it there, nearly each time making new tools,” Auersperg said. “On one attempt he used an alternative solution, breaking a side arm off a branch and modifying the leftover piece to the appropriate size for raking.”

Figaro’s abilities show that tool craftmanship can arise from intelligence that is not specialized for tool use, according to study co-author Alex Kacelnik at Oxford University.

Kacelnik has studied tool use in New Caledonian crows, including a bird called Betty, who could make hooks from wire to reach food.

This species does use and make tools in the wild, but Betty’s case is also considered as individual creativity and innovation.

“Figaro shows us that, even when they are not habitual tool-users, members of a species that are curious, good problem-solvers, and large-brained, can sculpt tools out of a shapeless source material to fulfill a novel need,” Kacelnik said in the release.

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