Take a walnut, two beakers and a grey parrot – and you get a pretty clever boy and evidence the grey parrot is the world's most intelligent bird.
Grey parrots can not only talk, count and dance in rhythm, but according to new research that uses nothing more complicated than a couple of cups and a piece of walnut, they also have the reasoning abilities of a three-year-old child.
Scientists at the University of Vienna gave parrots a choice between two cups, only one of which contained a nut. When the cup holding the food was shaken, the parrots chose it based on the rattling sound.
More cleverly, they could still identify the pot that contained the nut when only the empty pot was shaken. When the birds were played a recording of the rattle without the pot being shaken, however, they did not choose the container. This suggests that, rather than associating the sound with a reward, parrots understand that it is the food itself that makes the sound when the cup is shaken.
It is a task that few species can master. Humans can do it from the age of three, as can other great apes (such as gorillas), but monkeys and dogs cannot. Intriguingly, the experiment only worked when the cup was shaken horizontally. Scientists believe this could be because vertical motion mimics the head-bobbing that parrots use to communicate.
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