The Advanced Tool System Some Wild Cockatoos Use When Eating

Some birds are renowned brainboxes. The crow is one of the most commonly-cited examples, and for good reason. According to The New York Times, crows are so smart that they've figured out how to put stones in receptacles in order to access previously unreachable water for consumption. As crows are seen dropping said stones into a tube to raise the level of water inside, they can reach the food within. The New York Times went on to demonstrate that crows have some knowledge of how to efficiently get at the food when presented with a selection of objects. They have been known, for instance, to pick heavier over lighter stones.

It all gets even more impressive when you consider that situations and controlled conditions like these are very far out of the birds' comfort zones. One thing they'll do, however, is need to eat (and lay eggs, including blue eggs). To help with this, some clever cockatoos make themselves cutlery!

Who knew birds could use tool kits?

As Britannica reports, the use of tools is a great indication of the intelligence of the user. Sometimes, such objects or tools are provided for the animal. In other, perhaps even more impressive, cases, the animal finds or creates a suitable tool under their own steam. According to Science, Goffin's cockatoos stunned researchers at an Indonesian aviary by doing exactly that.

These birds are big fruit-eaters, and the thing about eating such a diet is that it can be tough to get through skins, seeds, shells, and so on in order to get to the tasty part. Goffin's cockatoos are equipped with a powerful, curved beak in order to facilitate this, but they have another trick up their wings.

Published on Current Biology, the August 2021 study "Wild Goffin's cockatoos flexibly manufacture and use tool sets" from Mark O'Hara et al explains that not only were these birds found to be able to create tools, but that they create tool kits that they use in sequence to achieve their goals.

In an experiment, the study reports that one bird "repeatably detached, modified, and used branch fragments" to get to the nutritious part of a fruit. Curiously, this was not common behavior among the species: "In a further two presentations in a group setting, only one additional individual processed the fruit with crafted tools," the study adds.

It was a Goffin's cockatoo, with an ice pick, in the aviary

Said crafting, it seems, involves stripping wood from a section of branch, then removing the bark and using the tongue to "carve" the wood as needed to access the fleshy fruit.

Via Current Biology, the researchers in "Wild Goffin's cockatoos flexibly manufacture and use tool sets" from Mark O'Hara et al went on to explain how exactly they were used: "Typically, tool users held the fruit in their left foot and balanced on the right foot while removing the pericarp with repeated parallel bites." In the wild, it seems, the birds aren't really tool-users, so their application with the fruit might be yet another example of this clever bird's quick thinking and creativity. Perhaps other birds of the species may learn from those who exhibit this behavior.

The very fact that the cockatoos have been observed creating and using what Science likens to specialty tools is astonishing. This is not just primate behavior after all. Ecologist Mark O'Hara stated, according to the outlet, just how shocked he was when he happened to see one of the aviary's birds doing so: "I'd just turned away, and when I looked back, one of the birds was making and using tools ... I couldn't believe my eyes!"