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Cockatoo bird surprises scientists by making tools


15:56, November 07, 2012

LONDON, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- A cockatoo has surprised scientists when it was observed making and using tools to reach food, reported European researchers on Tuesday.

The cockatoo is a species of parrot not previously known to use tools. However, researchers from University of Oxford and University of Vienna say a cockatoo named Figaro, reared in captivity near Vienna, was filmed using its powerful beak to cut long splinters out of wooden beams in its aviary, or twigs out of a branch, to reach and rake in objects out of its reach.

Writing in in the journal Current Biology, researchers said Figaro might be the first cockatoo to achieve this feat, but how it made the breakthrough is still unclear to scientists.

"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 a shapeless source material to fulfil a novel need," said Professor Alex Kacelnik at Oxford University.

"Even though Figaro is still alone in the species and among parrots in showing this capacity, his feat demonstrates that tool craftsmanship can emerge from intelligence not specialized for tool use," he added.

Professor Kacelnik previously studied a crow named Betty that could make hooks out of wire to retrieve food that was out of reach. Though crows are known to use and make tools in the wild, there was no precedent for Betty's form of hook making.

"We confess to be still struggling to identify the cognitive operations that make these deeds possible," said Professor Kacelnik, "Figaro, and his predecessor Betty, may help us unlock many unknowns in the evolution of intelligence."
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