STATES CHRONICLE – Parrots are awesome. They sing, they fly, and they can even learn how to talk. But is there more to their intelligence? According to a new discovery, there is. Scientists discovered wild parrots using tools because Polly wanted some calcium.
When observing 10 greater vasa parrots in captivity, Megan Lambert, a doctoral student of psychology at the University of York, along with her colleagues, saw the parrots doing something unexpected.
The aviary had scattered throughout the floor a whole bunch of pebbles and cockle shells.
Noticing that the animals were playing quite a lot with the items on the floor, Megan decided to pay closer attention to what they were doing. And what she saw amazed her.
The parrots were using pebbles to grind calcium from the shells scattered throughout the aviary, and were then eating the fine calcium dust.
Thus, the black-feathered greater vasa parrot is now officially known as the only other animal other than humans to us tools for grinding.
The black-feathered greater vasa parrots in captivity were further observed, and of the 10 specimens, only half of them used tools. The others just broke the shells using their beaks and ingested the tiny pieces.
Pebbles weren’t the only tools used by the birds, as date pits were also present in the enclosure, and the animals didn’t shy away from them.
Besides grinding the shells and getting the calcium powder, the parrots also used the tools to break the shells into small pieces, easier to ingest and digest.
More interesting is the fact that the parrots that used the tools had no issues sharing them, with multiple exchanges being made between the individuals. Some parrots were even observed stealing the tools from parrots that were still using them.
Since birds don’t have the ability to store calcium in their skeletons as well as mammals, the study authors speculate that the behavior might be related to the fact that the animals were in their mating season, and they require extra calcium for their future eggs.
Further studies are going to be performed in order to establish the exact extent of the animals’ ability to use tools, as well as if the situation is only occurring due to them being in mating season.
A video of the parrots using the pebbles as tools can be found below.
Image source: Wikimedia