Social learning of the use of human technology in birds

For the first time, it has been shown that cockatoos very popular in Australia learn from each other how to manipulate a human-made object.

Specifically, these birds learn to open the lid of a garbage container. That allows them to snoop inside for food scraps that are still edible.

The research, pioneering in the world, confirms that in cockatoos this novel behavior is spread through social learning. In other words, this behavior of cockatoos is learned from other individuals and not a result of genetics.

The team that made the find is led by Barbara Klump and Lucy Aplin (Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior), along with John Martin (Taronga Conservation Society in Australia) and Richard Major (Australian Museum)

Social learning is the foundation of different regional cultures, and some animals, such as primates and birds, appear to learn socially. Children are masters of social learning. From an early age, they copy the skills of other children and adults. However, compared to humans, few examples are known of animals learning from each other, as Klump points out.

A cockatoo opening the lid of a household garbage can using one of many opening techniques. This bird holds the cap with its beak and its left foot. A second bird watches her closely. (Photo: Barbara Klump / Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior)

Klump and his colleagues also found that birds did not open garbage cans in the same way, but instead used different opening techniques in different areas. The scientists interpreted the results as the emergence of regional subcultures.

The scientists hope their findings will also contribute to a broader understanding of the animals that live in cities.

The study is titled “Innovation and geographic spread of a complex foraging culture in an urban parrot”. And it has been published in the academic journal Science. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)

First images of the series with Javier Cámara

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