Spontaneous innovation in tool manufacture and use in a Goffin’s cockatoo

  • Auersperg A
  • Szabo B
  • von Bayern A
  • et al.
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Accounts of complex tool innovations in animals, particularly in species not adaptively specialized for doing so, are exceedingly rare and often linked to advanced cognitive abilities in the physical domain [1], even though the relation between such capabilities and intelligence is poorly understood [2]. For this reason, discoveries of such capabilities transcend anecdotal value and contribute significantly to comparative cognition [3–5]. Among birds, there are several reports of tool innovations in corvids, but very few documented records in other families (for example [1,3–7]). Here, we report a case of spontaneous tool innovation in the Goffin’s cockatoo (Cacatua goffini), a species endemic to the Tanimbar archipelago in Indonesia. Like most corellas, they live in social groups (∼10–100) in tropical dry forests, roost in simple tree holes, and feed mainly on a seed based diet (which occasionally causes interference with agriculture) [8]. There are no records of tool-related behavior in the wild. We report how a captive male named Figaro successfully, reliably and repeatedly made and used stick-type tools to rake in food, manufacturing them from two different materials and displaying different steps and techniques.




Auersperg, A. M. I., Szabo, B., von Bayern, A. M. P., & Kacelnik, A. (2012). Spontaneous innovation in tool manufacture and use in a Goffin’s cockatoo. Current Biology, 22(21), R903–R904. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.09.002

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