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Clever cockatoos fashion tools from cardboard

Cockatoos have shown the capacity to shape tools, skills not inherited or learned from other cockatoos.

Cockatoos are well known for their skills in mimicry, but it turns out they may have problem-solving brains in their feathery heads. A team of researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine has observed the Indonesian Goffin's cockatoo making tools without having to be trained.

The bird is not known for making tools in the wild, but one bird called Figaro was observed splintering wood to make a long tool to rake pieces of food that had been out of reach. Because wood naturally splinters into this shape, the researchers decided to test four birds with four materials: larch wood, which splinters; leafy twigs, which would need to be trimmed; cardboard, which can be cut into any shape; and a lump of beeswax.

Food was then placed in a box with a circular opening. Only a long tool could knock the food down. None of the birds managed to do anything with the beeswax, but all of the birds managed to splinter the larch wood. Two also trimmed the twig successfully, and two managed to cut the cardboard into the desired shape.

You can read the full paper online here.