Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
 
 
Send Cancel

Cockatoos can create tools of different lengths
Birds made much longer cardboard strips when a food reward was further away

Researchers assess birds’ tool-making behaviour

Goffin’s cockatoos pay attention to specific functional features of their tools while they are making them, according to new research.

Previous studies showed the birds could spontaneously make long fishing or probing tools by biting them out of different materials, including cardboard. The birds would make parallel bite marks alongside the edge of the material, like a hole puncher, and then use their upper beak to cut the piece out of the cardboard.

But a new study published in Plos ONE shows that the birds can adjust the length of their tools as required by cutting longer or shorter sticks out of cardboard - even rejecting those tools they deem unsuitable.

In the study, researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna and the University of Vienna found the birds made much longer cardboard strips when a food reward was further away, and shorter strips when food was closer to the probing hole.

“If they do make tools that are not long enough to breach the distance between the food reward and the probing hole they usually discard them before even trying to insert them into the box and immediately make a longer one” explains Carina Köck, a student who conducted the study.

“They even discard notably longer tools when the food is far away than when it is close.”

Researchers said the way the animals showed flexibility in their tool-making behaviour demonstrated they can at least learn to pay attention to different conditions.

But whilst the birds were able to adjust the length of their tools, it seemed they were not able to adjust them to the width openings. Even when the diameter of the probing hole varied, the cockatoos continued to make strips of similar width.

The team believes the limitation is due to how wide the birds can open their beak.

“The lower edge of the upper beak takes a steep curve from the beak tip to the corner of their mouth. The edge of the cardboard block is pressed into the deepest possible point of that curve during tool making,” said Carina.

“This is most likely done for support. Meanwhile, the beak tip was used to cut through the material. This means that the distance between the beak tip and the curve restricted the width of their tools.”

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

ZSL London Zoo shares animal X-rays

News Story 1
 A selection of X-ray images showing the inner workings of frogs, turtles, snakes and geckos have been shared by veterinary surgeons at ZSL London Zoo.

Taken as part of a routine health check, the images have been shared as part of ‘Vets in Action’ week - a hand’s on role-playing experience for children that explores the life of a zoo vet.

ZSL London Zoo veterinary nurse Heather Mackintosh said: “It’s great to be able to share the work that goes on behind the scenes at the Zoo to keep our residents in tip-top condition – and our visitors are always amazed to find out more about their favourite animals.” 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Vets in developing nations given free access to BSAVA’s online library

BSAVA has teamed up with the WSAVA, the WSAVA Foundation and FECAVA to offer vets in developing nations free access to its online library.

The Association’s ‘Foundation Collection’ is comprised of more than 70 hours of articles, lectures and book chapters covering topics such as basic handling skills, working on a budget and emergency triage. Some of the countries set to benefit include Albania, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.

Nicolette Hayward, of BSAVA International Affairs Committee said: “Our mission is to promote excellence in small animal practice through education and science, so we are delighted to work with WSAVA, the WSAVA Foundation and FECAVA to share these high-quality resources to the veterinary profession in low and middle-income countries.”