Bird Intelligence


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Thumbnail image for cockatoo-tools_620x465.jpg
While I was stumbling across Google news articles and becoming severely bored with politically related things, I found an article about Figaro by BBC.  Figaro is a cockatoo that caught the attention of Austrian researchers when he was seen making his own tools to accomplish tasks in his habitat.  You can see an example of his tool use in the link above.  His species isn't known for tool-making, and no other parrots have been caught doing so either.  It hasn't been seen in their natural habitat in the wild, nor in caged in habitats.  He was seen sculpting wood so that he could use it to reach objects outside of his caged in habitat including nuts to eat.  Professor Kacelnik says its important to know though that tool-use among birds may not symbolize a high level of intelligence.  Therefore as impressive as it seems, it may really not be that big a deal.

In an article about Figaro by The Huffington Post, Virginia Morell considers Figaro a prodigy among his species.  In this article scientists say that understanding the cognitive processes of birds will help us better understand the evolution of intelligence.

I guess this leads to a few questions.  Is Figaro a strange exception to his species?  Is this a sign of serious intelligence among birds?  Could his new technique spread amongst other birds if  they're exposed to his talents?

2 Comments

After finding your blog extremely interesting, I had to find more information about Figaro. I ended up finding an article in Science about the subject. While the author concedes that other birds, including woodpeckers and crows, are known to use tools, it is a rare exception for a bird to produce a tool on their on and Figaro is the first cockatoo to display such an ability. She also notes that parrots such cockatoos have very large brains, but rarely tap into all of their ability because food is normally readily available in the wild and there is no need to be inventive. Maybe Figaro developed his tool-making skill because while in captivity, he had more time to tap into his cognitive abilities. I wonder if other cockatoos would make tools if they were kept in captivity.
For the Science article visit: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/11/the-innovative-cockatoo-figaro.html

This article is very interesting. Why wouldn't people see this as a sign of intelligence? It is mind boggling to think that people would down play such a significant realization. In article I found by PBS (given below) they discuss just how truly birds are for making tools to make their nests/ try to escape things. I think that saying this act is not of intelligence is a farce.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/parrots-in-the-land-of-oz/birds-that-use-tools/714/

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