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Bird-brain? Think again.

A new study published at Plos One reveals that cockatoos can pick complicated locks, with one bird unraveling the five interlocking components without being given a demonstration beforehand.

The paper is actually titled:

Explorative Learning and Functional Inferences on a Five-Step Means-Means-End Problem in Goffin’s Cockatoos (Cacatua goffini)

An abstract extract:

Most birds showed a ratchet-like progress, rarely failing to solve a stage once they had done it once. In most transfer tests subjects reacted flexibly and sensitively to alterations of the locks’ sequencing and functionality.

Alex Kacelnik, a professor of zoology at Oxford University ... and his colleagues, Alice Auersperg and Auguste von Bayern at the University of Vienna, placed a cashew nut behind a window fastened shut by a thin metal bar. The birds had to get through four additional locks that required them to pull a pin, turn a screw, remove a bolt, and rotate a wheel to reach the reward. More importantly, they had to do those actions in the correct order. If a cockatoo completed the first task, the scientists then rearranged the order of the four locks. They wanted to see whether the birds could modify their lock-picking behavior by doing the same four actions but in a different sequence.

Via Boing Boing on PLOS ONE.


One more episode in the great scientists' conspiracy against religion. One more fact that will need to be avoided by the pious.

Views: 216

Replies to This Discussion

How very interesting! 

Yeah! They can be regular Houdinis when they want to be! 

All this with a brain smaller than your pinky's fingernail.

If they can do it with a brain that small then why aren't we a lot more brilliant than we are  using the ratio of their brains to our brain? 

God. He's why we can't have good things. =)

Bird are intellegent not only cockatoos, but also crows.

I raised a cocatto and also a crow that had a broken wing.  The crow took about two months for the wing to heal when we released it back into the wild.  It hung around for a while before finding it's nature in the wild - where it belonged.

Crows are as intelligent as CHILDREN: Study reveals birds are as clever as a seven-year-old human

  • They are the only non-primate species known to make tools, such as prodding sticks and hooks, which they use to pick up out grubs
  • New study has shown that the birds could worked out how to obtain floating food rewards by dropping heavy objects into water-filled tubes

Crows have a reasoning ability rivalling that of a human seven-year-old, research has shown.

Scientists came to the conclusion after subjecting six wild New Caledonian crows to a battery of tests designed to challenge their understanding of cause and effect.

The tasks were all variations of the Aesop's fable in which a thirsty crow drops stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher.

They demonstrated an ability to drop sinking rather than floating objects, solid rather than hollow objects, to choose a high water level tube over one with low water level, and a water-filled tube over one filled with sand.

The crows failed on two more difficult tasks, however. One test required understanding of the width of the tube and the other involved displacing water in a U-shaped tube.

Nevertheless, the birds' understanding of the effects of volume displacement matched that of human children aged between five and seven, claimed the scientists.

Lead researcher Sarah Jelbert, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, said: 'These results are striking as they highlight both the strengths and limits of the crows' understanding.

'In particular, the crows all failed a task which violated normal causal rules, but they could pass the other tasks, which suggests they were using some level of causal understanding when they were successful.'

New Caledonian crows, named after the Pacific islands where they live, are famous for their intelligence and inventiveness.

They are the only non-primate species known to fashion tools, such as prodding sticks and hooks, which they use to winkle out grubs from logs and branches.

Another recent study also seemed to support the problem-solving ability of the birds.

The experiment, which was devised by Dr Alex Taylor, a Lecturer in Evolutionary Psychology based at The University of Auckland, New Zealand, involved a wild crow which had learned to use individual props during three months of captivity.

It successfully managed to work out the order in which to use them to complete an eight stage puzzle in approximately two-and-a-half minutes and get an inaccessible treat. The animal was later released.

The findings appear in the latest issue of the online journal PLOS ONE.

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