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Cockatoos can tell when they need more than one tool to swipe a snack

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Forget screwdrivers or drills. A stick and a straw make for a great cockatoo tool kit.

Some Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana) know whether they need to have more than one tool in claw to topple an out-of-reach cashew, researchers report February 10 in Current Biology. By recognizing that two items are necessary to access the snack, the birds join chimpanzees as the only nonhuman animals known to use tools as a set.

The study is a fascinating example of what cockatoos are capable of, says Anne Clark, a behavioral ecologist at Binghamton University in New York, who was not involved in the study. A mental awareness that people often attribute to our close primate relatives can also pop up elsewhere in the animal kingdom.

A variety of animals including crows and otters use tools but don’t deploy multiple objects…

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