New Caledonian crows also make tools, a skill that allows them to sustain their protein-dependent diet. But there is no obvious adaptive pressure for Goffin’s cockatoos to use tools, and the ability to do so may be a sign of general intelligence rather than a specific adaptation, says Alice Auersperg of the University of Vienna, who led the study.
Are Goffin’s cockatoos an exceptionally intelligent species, or is Figaro just a unique individual, an Einstein among bird brains? “Although this is a remarkable innovation, I do not believe that he is an animal genius,” says Auersperg. While none of his cagemates has figured out his technique, they have sometimes outperformed him in other cognitive tests. Auersperg’s group is continuing to test other birds, investigating whether they, too, may have an “aha!” moment.
[This article originally appeared in print as "Crafty Cockatoo."]