goffin cockatoo
Credit: wikipedia

Have you heard about Figaro - a Goffin Cockatoo - who may be the smartest bird in the world?

The Bird Shines

It seems that Figaro is not only able to use tools to his advantage but to fashion them when needed. This extraordinary ability was noticed in 2012 at the University of Vienna when Figaro used a stick to retrieve a pebble located outside his cage. Figaro was a bit disappointed as he tried to eat the stone bu then realized it was not edible.

To replicate the behavior, researchers first placed a nut outside the cage that Figaro could reach with his beak. They then moved the nut marginally further away until the bird could not obtain the nut without a tool. A suitably sized stick – held by Figaro between his foot and beak – allowed the bird to manipulate the nut until it was in reach.

Other Birds are Smart Too

This behavior was not too unexpected as the Goffin Cockatoo is one of the most intelligent birds – if not animals – on the planet. In addition, other animals have been observed to use tools such as monkeys using rocks to open oysters and octopuses building shelters out of coconut shells. More strikingly, New Caledonian crows will use sticks to roust insects from lairs in the ground much in the same way that Figaro uses his to mover the nut.

The real difference is that Figaro actually fashioned the tool rather than just found one at hand. When presented with a nut too far to reach with his beak and not provided with a stick, he would gnaw at his wooden cage until a suitably sized splinter of piece of wood broke free and then the bird used it to retrieve the nut.

Figaro Has A Breakthrough

But wait... there's more. Figaro and other Goffin cockatoos have been shown to be able to solve sequential problems, that is, ones that require more than one step to accomplish. For example, a lock – admittedly a relatively simple one – required three steps to open. The steps could not be done in random order , however.

Instead, each had to be done in turn before the next could be accomplished. The researchers aided five birds during the project and all were eventually able to replicate the process with no further human help. Still, one bird was able to open the lock unaided. A remarkable feat for a “bird brain.” Don't you think?

Birds Can Learn 

But wait... there's even more. Returning to Figaro, researchers decided to test if the birds could teach each other. They allowed six cockatoos to watch Figaro directly while a control group was shown a magnetically controlled rod moving the nut towards the cage. None of the control group was able to obtain the nut but three of the ones watching Figaro did so even though they did not exactly mimic his actions.

The researchers concluded that their was indeed a significant amount of problem solving going on and not just rote repetition. One other detail is also quite interesting. Of the six birds that were allowed to watch Figaro, the three that could successfully duplicate his efforts were all male while the other three unsuccessful ones were female. Coincidence of proof that God really is a man? You decide.


Photo Credit: wikipedia

Article by: hilary lloyd