Cockatoo cracks lock with no prior training

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Video at link below.

Need a locksmith? Call a cockatoo instead. One of the parrots in an experiment proved capable of picking a series of locks with no prior training.


Alex Kacelnik and colleagues at the University of Oxford set a number of cockatoos a challenge: pick a lock to access a nut visible behind a transparent door. The birds had to remove a pin, followed by a screw and a bolt, before turning a wheel to release a latch (see video).

Five birds were successful after some guidance, or with practice, but one of the cockatoos – called Pipin – broke in unassisted in under 2 hours. It was also the only bird to remove the screw with its foot instead of its beak.

"Some birds excel at different tasks," says Kacelnik. "Pipin is an ace at solving locks whereas another bird at the lab is good at making tools."

Written By: Sandrine Ceurstemont
continue to source article at newscientist.com

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  1. This is brilliant. My hamster’s only talent is sorting through his feeding bowl and eating only the most unhealthy bits of the diet I carefully composed for the ungrateful brat.

    As far as I know birds have exceeded all primates, humans excepted, in toolmaking and counting skills. Yet they don’t have a neocortex (right?). How do they manage that?

    • In reply to #1 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

      This is brilliant. My hamster’s only talent is sorting through his feeding bowl and eating only the most unhealthy bits of the diet I carefully composed for the ungrateful brat.

      As far as I know birds have exceeded all primates, humans excepted, in toolmaking and counting skills. Yet they don’t have a neocortex….

      No, but birds like most vertebrate non-mammals do have something similar in a pallium (a cloak as opposed to a cortex, or rind), though in birds it is interestingly less layered and more homogenous than most other animals. Our impressively large cortex is associated with being able to manage extensive social interaction. But it is notable that at the nerd/aspie/autist end of the empathising/systematising scale, absent social skills often means a greatly increased ability to solve problems, if only because social concerns and distractions don’t exist. The trick of problem solving may simply be tenacity, allowing an evolutionary process of trial and reducing error to run its course. Nerds like picking locks.

      Your hamster surely has a very low opinion of your problem solving ability though, Sjoerd. He has shown you countless times what to put in his food…..

  2. When I’m drunk, I can’t open the lock in my apartment door. So I guess the intelligence of a drunk me is at the level of a cockatoo’s. In the spirit of science, this calls for more experiments. I’m off to a pub.

  3. Captain Long John Silver : “Now just ‘old your ‘orses, Kacelnik laddie.” “Mee Afrikan grey parrotz – Gandalf – can kraks open any Spaneesh treasure lukz in a blinkz of an eye!”
    Jim Lad : “But ‘ow duz ee nose ‘ow, captain sir?”
    Captain Long John Silver : “Eeez a ‘rite clever parrot – ‘cos ee surfs that thar Intarnetz.”
    Gandalf (the parrot) : “Pieces of 8, pieces of 8, cockaGoogledoo” ;) m

  4. Well this all looks pretty amazing stuff when we see another species getting to grips with ‘man-made’ technologies and puzzle solving. Step outside of the anthropocentricity for a second. Have you ever seen a man build a nest using only his feet and his mouth with the precision of a bird?

  5. When I was a boy, milk was delivered by horse cart daily in reusable glass bottles. A species of bird earned how to pop the caps and drink the cream at the top of each bottle.

    There is a great Video called A Murder of Crows that shows crows solving nested logic puzzles and demonstrates their ability to describe faces to each other.

  6. One thing that impressed me about crows is they examine all parts of the problem, then bang bang bang solve it without a wasted motion or pause.

    We humans tend to think by playing with objects.

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