back to article Cockatoo grabs his tool, manages to get hold of boffins' nuts

A twig may not be your idea of a great tool, but a cockatoo has worked out how to use it to move a cashew nut, getting scientists from the University of Oxford, Vienna and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany fairly excited. The complex tool innovation displayed by a Goffin's cockatoo (Cacatua goffiniana) called …


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  1. Chris Miller

    "Max Planck Institute in Germany"

    To quote from their own website: There is no such thing as "the" Max Planck Institute. In fact, as you can see, there are >80 in separate locations covering everything from Art History to Tax Law.

    1. Roby
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Max Planck Institute in Germany"

      You beat me to it.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: "Max Planck Institute for Ornithology"

      Thanks to the webmasters for changing it, but there are actually two separate Max Planck Institutes for Ornithology, in Seewiesen and Radolfzell. Seewiesen is the main one, and that's whence this emanates - but it's actually in Austria.

    3. canadaDan

      Re: "Max Planck Institute in Germany"

      There is no error. Unless The Register has corrected the item since, their identification using the article is correct.

      The Society has many 'Institutes', and The Register has specified which one with the article 'the'.

  2. john 112

    max plank institute

    The situation is even more indeterminant in the case of the Werner Heisenberg Institute. The mere act of observing their web site creates a new instance of the institute.

    1. Michael Dunn

      Re: max plank institute

      "The mere act of observing their web site creates a new instance of the institute." Yes, but it only has energy of the order of 6.6*10^-34 J.s!

  3. aallison

    Best headline of the year!!!!

  4. Miek

    "Certain species of birds are known for using tools but cockatoos are not among them" -- Lol, they are now!

    Example of crows up to the same shifty business ...

    BBC Nature: Crows can 'reason' about causes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      how daft are humans, exactly?

      Gee, I wonder if other animals reason? Let's spend some money and find out. Or maybe we could just throw a stick for a dog and watch it predict direction and velocity and catch it in mid air. Or, watch some crows picking at a dead squirrel in the middle of the road but fly away as a truck bears down on them. Or, watch a cat making complex predictions of where the moving toy is under the rug so they can pounce on it. The examples of complex cognitive computation in non-humans is flippin everywhere.

      What religious, sanctimonious, narcissistic moron started this whole, " humans are the only species that thinks and feels", shit? No, humans are so stupid that they assume they are the only ones that think and feel despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary that they can't see for some reason, so they spend tremendous amounts of money "discovering" the obvious and acting like it is a real accomplishment.

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    And after he'd made his tool ...

    ... he tweeted about it. Maybe not so clever, after all.

  6. James 51

    Is there a breeding programme? Evoluation is action...

  7. Elmer Phud

    Boffins Get Excited Around Their Nuts When Introduced To A Cockatoo

    as title

  8. Poor Coco

    Hooray for cockatoos!

    Cockatoos are fantastically intelligent and affectionate; I had the privilege (?) of living with an umbrella cockatoo for about 5 years. It takes more effort to keep one cockatoo busy and happy than two human children, according to my survey (n=1). But it had its rewards, like being greeted every morning by a cockatoo jumping under the duvet for a cuddle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I had one too...

      I never caught the little bugger using tools, but he would pull my hair until I gave him as many nuts as he wanted...

    2. Reg Blank

      Re: Hooray for cockatoos!

      One cockatoo sounds fun.

      I have a row of pine trees next to my house.

      Every so often a flock of cockatoos will descend on the trees for several days at a time and have a massive party. They squark and squeal and SCREECH AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS UNTIL I AM COMPLETELY BATTY!!! Everyone they know is at the party, and they are all within 100m of each other. Why do they need to screech so loud they could hear each other kilometres away?

      They crunch and crack their way through all the pine cones leaving piles of debris behind, leaves, twigs, branches, shredded pine cones.

      Then I'm startled by a horrific noise that momentarily disorientates me, as I don't know what it is. It's making my ears ring. What is it that makes me uneasy? The silence. Total silence. They've fu..flocked off to the next party location, and the count down begins to their next rave.

      1. Annwyn

        Re: Hooray for cockatoos!

        I know that feeling - The neighbors at my parents place have a huge walnut tree the cockatoos used to LOVE visiting EVERY BLOODY MORNING at dawn.

        They are very destructive little buggers too - they especially like the rubber seals on street lights...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has already been dissected by BBC Breakfast viewers

    No need to repeat this rubbish, parrot fashion.

  10. mIRCat

    Let me be the first...

    To welcome our fine feathered avian overlords.

    1. BrownishMonstr

      Re: Let me be the first...

      I was gonna say... "Kill It! Kill them all before they become too clever!"

  11. Prof Yaffle

    I note that the diagram says "Manufacture of T10"...

    ... "the parrot begins to learn at a geometric rate. It became self-aware at 2:14 Eastern Time, August 29th" ...

    Run now, before we're all enslaved in the harvesting of cuttlefish bones.

  12. NomNomNom

    This is the kind of science experiment I could have done if I had thought of it. I've got nuts and there are plenty of birds around here. All I'd need to do was to force some bird to poke my nuts with a stick, get it on video and publish the results to the scientists.

    Although is this line of research even knew? We learned that birds are dinosaurs and dinosaurs can learn to open doors in Jurassic Park so we already know birds are clever (eg "clever girl").

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can sculpt tools out of a shapeless source material to fulfil a novel need?

    They'll be modifying perl scripts before we know it!

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch

      Re: can sculpt tools out of a shapeless source material to fulfil a novel need?

      They'll be modifying perl scripts before we know it!

      You might be thinking of Parrots.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Using my unparalleled knowledge of British vernacular

    Hardly the first "bird" to get a guy by the nuts.....


  15. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I remember being surprised when my budgie grabbed onto something with his foot to stop it moving as he pecked at. Unfortunately although it showed some intelligence the thing he was holding onto was a mirror hanging in his cage and spending fifteen minutes pecking and licking your reflection is not a very good demonstration of intelligence.

    Ah - he was a daft sod.

    He almost worked out how to use a pen as well :)

  16. Ron Christian

    is this news?

    My wife had a cockatoo for several years. He soon mastered the technique of reaching through the bars and manipulating the lock on the door. Then he'd get out and chase the dogs around the floor until we recovered him and restored him to his cage. We eventually had to use a padlock on his cage, and as I passed it on the way to work I could see him reaching through to spin the dials. Never figured out the combination, though. We used to call him the bird from hell.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: is this news?

      I've never had a cockatoo. Never read anything about them, or watched one, with the probable exception of seeing glimpses of one on TV. Didn't know anything more about them than that they are birds. So, to answer your pointless question - Yes.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The birds are never after MY nuts


  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Were any patents infringed?

    Those twigs look a lot like the styli used in various computing devices.

    Someone call a lawyer before this foreign species destroys the US stylus industry!

  19. Sandy Tyndale-Biscoe

    Cockatoos are not the only ones

    I've seen a Macaw show even more intelligence. At my engineering college some kind people donated him as a leaving present and he lived in the students' bar, kept on his perch by a long very light chain attached by a ring with a split thread to his leg. Initially the ring was fastened with a simple nut. He got it off within 2 days. So we made another with a left handed thread. 2 days later he was out. So we fitted a lock nut. It took him a week to figure out that by using his own weight on his feeding bowl he could hold one nut whilst undoing the other. After that we gave up and he had the run of the bar, until he swore once too many times in front of the ladies and was sent off to the zoo. Unfortunately, because of his language he could not go on public display and was confined to a back area where he was eventually murdered by a badger.

  20. Manolo

    Video here

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hire Him

    He's definitly got more problem solving skills than most systems administrators.

  22. Andus McCoatover
    Paris Hilton

    Astounding creatures!

    Paris, because I think she's had a cockatoo...

    1. Paris Hilton
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Astounding creatures!


  23. Brian McGovern

    This is exceptional?

    I have an umbrella cockatoo that uses parts of his toys as levers, and the chains from his toys to build pulley systems. A "rake" is a pretty common and normal activity (at least with the 3 large birds I have). The one in particular is so effective with his tools that I recently (a year ago) had to replace his cage due to popped screws, broken welds, and bent bars, and we're talking 5mm steel bird cages.... I had to bump him up to one of the only 6mm cages I could find, and that, really, is only delaying him.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    I for one welcome our new stick wielding cockatoo overlords.

    Someone had to.

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