Goffin’s cockatoos, which have proven their tool-making skills under laboratory conditions, have just proven their qualities in the wild.
The birds have been analyzed in their natural habitat on the Tanimbar Islands of Maluku, Indonesia.
Cacatua goffiniana, as they are scientifically known, has been spotted making tools that could help them get better access to food.
The results are solid proof that their former behavior wasn’t just a result of them being held in captivity, as some believed, but rather something that the birds do naturally while away from the influence of society.
Mark O’Hara, a cognitive biologist from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, said:
“I couldn’t believe it! When I offered them (the cockatoos) a certain fruit from the forest, one of the cockatoos began to make a tool out of a branch. It was amazing how skillfully and competently the bird knew how to use this tool.”
The tool-making skill was observed in other species, too, like primates and corvids.
Cockatoos, just like primates, have large brains (compared to their body size) and advanced social networks.
They were believed as unlikely candidates to manifest such skills, though, due to their “built-in” tools like specialized feet and sharp beaks that should be able to perform all of the tasks a cockatoo should need too.
The team of researchers set up cameras in the wilderness at strategic places like the tree canopies where the birds normally hang out.
The sea mango (the Wawai fruit) was what kickstarted it all. That fruit is deadly for humans, but Goffins enjoy its seeds.
However, extracting the seeds is no easy task. The Goffins must do whatever they can to break the layer of pulp.
Two of the fifteen analyzed Goffins shaped tools and used their beaks and tongues to shape them from tree branches.
However, their effort was not in vain, as they got to enjoy the Wawai seeds.
One of the birds used a thicker wedged to try and pry apart the seed.
The second used a sharper tool, resembling a knife, to cut and penetrate the coating of the seed.
The cockatoos also used makeshift spoons to scoop out the seeds out of the fruit, which is extremely impressive for a bird to do.