Study suggests greater vasa parrots use date pits or tiny pebbles to grind seashells
Parrots also use grinding tools just like the humans - not all but at least one species of parrots.
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Researchers from University of York and University of St. Andrews for the first time revealed the unique secret about the parrots when they observed greater vasa parrots (Coracopsis vasa) using pebbles and fruit pits for various purposes.
Researchers looked at the behavior of 10 greater vasa parrots which are being held in captivity at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park. After observing and filming parrots for more than eight months, researchers have found that greater vasa parrots use tiny pebbles or date pits to break seashells. They grind calcium powder from the shells and ingest it in order to maintain the adequate levels of calcium in their bodies.
“The use of tools by nonhuman animals remains an exceedingly rare phenomenon. These observations provide new insight into the tool using capabilities of parrots and give rise to further questions as why this species uses tools.” Megan Lambert, lead author of the study, said.
Greater vasa parrots seashells grinding becomes more evident when the breeding season is about to come. Calcium is crucial for the formation of eggshells and they need it more while laying eggs.
"Unlike mammals, birds cannot efficiently store calcium in the skeleton, and so may still require an extra boost during the breeding season to assist with the formation of their eggshells, which are made almost entirely of calcium.”Lambert said.
Researchers also found that these Madagascar native parrots do not hesitate to share their tools. They often pass it over to others so they can get the calcium boost together. Even more interestingly, there were some examples when a parrot snatched a grinding tool from the other parrot to use it itself and the actual owner protested too.
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“Tool use could reflect an innate predisposition in the parrots or it could be result of individual trial and error learning or some form of social learning,” said Lambert. “Whether these birds also use tools in the wild remains to be explored but ultimately these observations highlight the greater vasa parrots as a species of interest for further studies of physical cognition.”