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

Registrations open for overseas veterinary professionals course

News Story 1
 Registrations are now open for the RCVS CPD course for overseas veterinary professionals, which covers an introduction to the UK veterinary professions.

The course is aimed at overseas-qualified veterinary surgeons and nurses during their first two years of working in the UK, in addition to those considering working here. It provides graduates with the key information and skills required to practice in the UK, as well as helping them understand their legal duties as veterinary professionals.

For more information and to book your place please click here. The course will be held at Belgravia House, London, on Wednesday 12 June.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
BVA launches award to celebrate young vets

A new award has been launched to celebrate inspirational young vets who are making a difference in their day to day work.

Nominations are now open for the BVA Young Vet of the Year Award, which is the first of its kind. It is open to all vets registered with the RCVS in the first eight years of their careers, working in any veterinary sphere, including clinical practice, research, education or veterinary politics. Organisers are looking for an ‘exceptional young vet’ whose work has benefitted the veterinary community or the workplace.

The awards are open for self-entry and nominations by 1 August 2019. The winner will be announced at London Vet Show on 14 November 2019, where a £1000 cash prize will be awarded, alongside a ‘career enhancing experience’ with Zoetis.