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Cockatoos are amazon problem-solvers

The FWF's science magazine "scilog" has published a video portrait of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Alice Auersperg, head of the Goffin research.

Flexible tool set transport in Goffin’s cockatoos

Goffin’s cockatoos were shown to mentally represent the need of more than one tool at foraging site. Thereby they actively transport sets of two different tools together to the problem at hand.

Press release

A New-START (Project)

A new START Project awarded to Alice Auersperg by the FWF has begun in 2021. It tagets at studying the sophisticated tool using abilities of the Goffin’s cockatoo from a multangular perspective, including the development of the behavior in young animals, the technical challenges the species faces in the wild, the spread of similar abilities amongst close relatives of the Goffin and the perception and cognition involved in the expression of tool use. The researchers hope that the outcomes of this six -year program will allow us to additionally learn something about the onset of tool use in general.


Tanimbar Goffin’s use tool sets 

Goffin cockatoos at our field station on Tanimbar were observed to carefully manufacture up to three different types of tools with different functional features (a wedging tool, a cutting tool and a levering tool) out of wood that were used sequentially to extract seed matter from local fruit stones. Notably, each tool requires a distinct and complex manufacturing and handling technique. This finding may be among the most sophisticated examples of wildlife technology recorded so far. For a video abstract, click.



Wild Goffin’s match their captive counterparts in an innovation arena

Being inventive allows to adapt to changing surroundings. Goffins are remote island species and it is plausible that they had to adjust to substantial environmental changes. Nevertheless, are their extreme technical abilities in captivity a true reflection of their natural behaviour or a result of being reared in proximity to humans? We compared wild and captive Goffins in an Innovation Arena (a semicycle featuring 20 technical tasks). We found that while less wild birds in Tanimbar were interested in the setup, the ones that were solved the tasks at a similar rate as the captive ones in Austria.