Have you ever seen birds play golf? If that is the case, today is your fortunate day. A new study on the tool use capabilities of Goffin’s cockatoos published today put these birds’ problem-solving abilities to the test by putting them in a golf scenario. The idea was straightforward: use the “club” to whack a marble into a hole and get cashew. The tool used in the action, on the other hand, is highly unique, combining the usage of composite, free-moving items to attain a single purpose – something seen in only a few primates.
Researchers from Goffin’s lab at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, discovered that Goffin’s cockatoos were capable of primate-level tool use in hitting a marble and winning a nut in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. It is a remarkable achievement because it combines the tasks of two free-moving objects, making the aim significantly more difficult. You might be asking on earth a cockatoo can taught to play golf. You do not, to put it simply. They will be able to figure it out on their own.
“We have to keep in mind that they received no instructions of any type on how to perform the experiment,” first author Antonio Osuna-Mascaró told IFLScience. “They had to find the solution by themselves, through pure innovation.” “Their initial plan was to research the box and its potential flaws… They recognized they could combine the functions of the marble and the stick to discover a solution after they stopped examining the box in all its nooks and crannies.”
On his way to the lab, Osuna-Mascaró came upon the unique practice of getting birds to play sports as a manner of investigating tool use. Because cockatoos lack hands, training them to crack nuts like apes was impossible, but teaching them to whack balls with small golf clubs was a different story. The outcomes are self-evident.
The cockatoos tethered to a small, elevated platform with an authentic green carpet. They could only get the visible cashew prize if they knocked the small white marble into the corresponding hole on either end of the “course.” If you have ever played golf, you are probably well aware of how even the simplest of shots can go wrong. It is difficult to envision a cockatoo mastering the sport, but as Osuna-Mascaró and colleagues discovered, the birds quickly learned the ropes.
“Three of our cockatoos found out how to use the stick to slither the ball into the correct hole and get a reward,” Osuna-Mascaró said in a statement to IFLScience. “One of the most fascinating aspects of the procedure was watching how each animal developed its own unique technique for gripping the stick and hitting the ball, sometimes with incredible dexterity. One of the birds held the stick between his mandibles, one between his beak tip and tongue, and the other with his claw, as if he were a primate.”