On the heels of monkeys excelling in school comes news that Goffin's cockatoos can learn from each other how to make and use tools. These Indonesian parrots, it seems, have some potential in the classroom, too.
The discovery is being hailed by researchers as the first evidence in a lab setting of a bird species socially transmitting tool use from one to another.
The bird species in question isn't known for tool use in the wild. But a Griffin's cockatoo (Cacatua goffini) named Figaro was observed in the lab making stick tools out of the wooden beams of his aviary and using the implements to pull some tasty nuts toward him that were otherwise out of his reach behind the gridded bars of a cage.
Scientists from Oxford University, the University of Vienna, and the Max Planck Institute at Seewiesen wanted to find out if other cockatoos could learn from Figaro how to make the same type of food rake. They used two groups of cockatoos as "students," with Figaro playing the role of the teacher.
One group of cockatoos watched Figaro use his hand-crafted food-getting tool. The second group was only able to watch what researchers termed "ghost demonstrations": Thanks to hidden magnets that moved the tool, these parrots could see either the device moving the nuts by itself or the nuts moving toward Figaro himself, without the teacher's input.