Amazing videos show cockatoos picking multi-stage puzzle lock


Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Vienna have been investigating bird intelligence, and two videos they've recorded show the amazing results they've achieved with cockatoos.

Working with several different cockatoos, none of whom were previously trained, they placed these birds in front of a locked box that had a tasty treat behind a transparent door. By practicing and watching each other work, the birds were able to figure out how each stage of the lock worked and get it open.

Apparently one particularly bright one, named Pipin, got it done all by himself, in less than two hours.

Opening the lock required that the birds not only figure out exactly how each stage of the locked worked, but also exactly what kind of action they needed to do in order to disarm each part of it.

In all, they had to learn to 1) pull the pin out, 2) unscrew the screw keeping the bolt in place, 3) move the bolt up and out of the hole in the wheel, 4) turn the wheel and 5) slide the bar back.

Even more amazing, in some cases (like the last test of the first video), the lock pieces were in place, but they weren't actually keeping the door locked, and the birds learned to recognize that and simply open the door!

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"We cannot prove that the birds understand the physical structure of the problem as an adult human would," Dr. Alex Kacelnik, a professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Oxford, said in a news release. "But we can infer from their behavior that they are sensitive to how objects act on each other, and that they can learn to progress towards a distant goal without being rewarded step by step."

I think I'll be changing how I use the term 'bird-brain' from now on.

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