Parrot Smarts

Environmentalism & Animal Rights,Intelligence,Science


Those of us who’re owned by a parrot know of their great intelligence and wish the general public would come to sympathize with their plight in the wild and in captivity. Scientists are slowly becoming hip to this remarkable intelligence. Hat tip to Marc Harper for “Cockatoos teach tool-making tricks”: “Cockatoos learn to make and use tools when shown by another bird, research reveals.”

And Goffin cockatoos have now shown an impressive ability to learn from one another how to use and even how to make tools.
A team of researchers has discovered that the birds emulate tool-making tricks when they are demonstrated to them by another bird.
The results are published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.
The researchers are interested in what they call “technical intelligence”, which is essentially animals’ ability to use objects to solve problems.
It confirms how innovative and how adaptable this species is to novel problems”
“Cockatoos are very interesting for this, because they’re very playful with objects,” explained lead researcher Dr Alice Auersperg, from the University of Oxford and the University of Vienna.
She and her colleagues had already noticed that one of birds in their research aviary, named Figaro, spontaneously used sticks to drag nuts under the bars.
Figaro also worked out how to make his “fishing sticks” by stripping long, thin pieces off a wooden block in his enclosure.

For me the more remarkable aspect of a Cockatoo’s fashioning of a tool to retrieve a treat is the superior intelligence of the one bird and the flock’s ability to learn advantageous behavior from this leader.

The one researcher, however, seem a little dim in his disbelief, postulating that the observed learning is but “trial and error learning,” as if the two were mutually exclusive faculties. I wonder how this skeptic thinks kids learn? Modeling, schedules of reinforcement, trial and error: has this guy heard of B. F. Skinner?

Parrots are flock animals: They watch each other, need each other and learn from one another as a matter of survival. In the absence of a flock, humans become their family. Thus nothing is crueler than isolating a parrot.

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