Doing business with a parrot: Goffin cockatoos trade with nuts in an exchange experiment

March 15, 2013

Biologists in the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna has for the first time succeeded in observing self-control of cockatoos in exchange experiments.

A new study at the University of Vienna, on an Indonesian cockatoo species — the Goffin’s cockatoo — which recently made headlines, showed notable results.

“The animals were allowed to pick up an initial food item and given the opportunity to return it directly into the experimenter’s hand after an increasing time delay. If the initial food item had not been nibbled by this time, the bird received another reward of an even higher preferred food type or of a larger quantity than the initial food in exchange” explains Isabelle Laumer, who conducted the study at the Goffin Lab at the University of Vienna.

“Although we picked pecan nuts as initial reward which were highly liked by the birds and would under normal circumstances be consumed straight away, we found that all 14 of birds waited for food of higher quality, such as cashew nut for up to 80 seconds”, she further reports.

Alice Auersperg, the manager of the Vienna Goffin Lab says: “When exchanging for better qualities, the Goffins acted astonishingly like economic agents, flexibly trading-off between immediate and future benefits. 

Video Source: University of Vienna

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Doing business with a parrot: Goffin cockatoos trade with nuts in an exchange experiment