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String-pulling in the Goffin’s cockatoo ( Cacatua goffiniana )

Authors
  • Wakonig, Birgit1
  • Auersperg, Alice M. I.2
  • O’Hara, Mark2
  • 1 University of Vienna,
  • 2 University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna,
Type
Published Article
Journal
Learning & Behavior
Publisher
Springer US
Publication Date
Jan 22, 2021
Volume
49
Issue
1
Pages
124–136
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/s13420-020-00454-1
PMID: 33483939
PMCID: PMC7979629
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Article
License
Unknown

Abstract

Goffin’s cockatoos, a parrot species endemic to the Tanimbar Islands in Indonesia, demonstrate remarkable cognitive skills across various technical tasks. These neophilic extractive foragers explore objects with their beak and feet, and are skilled in several modes of tool use. In this study, we confronted the animals for the first time with a vertical string-pulling setup, including a set of classic and novel controls. Nine of the 12 subjects, two of which were subadults, immediately interacted with the single-string task, with seven individuals successfully obtaining the reward on their very first attempt. Four different double string discrimination tests with varying spatial relations were used to assess the Goffin’s cockatoos’ apprehension of basic physical task properties. We found significant differences in performance between the respective experimental conditions, as well as the development of side biases. The results suggest that while the birds seem to consider simple cause–effect relationships, there is no evidence for a mental representation of the causal mechanisms underlying the string-pulling tasks, as subjects failed the crossed strings condition out of immediate sight. Finally, we provide suggestions on improving the methodology, and discuss our findings in regard to the Goffin’s cockatoo’s ecology.

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