Lock-picking cockatoos: threat or menace?

If you’re hiding your delicious cashews in a safe, they’re as good as gone if a cockatoo comes around. At Oxford, scientists presented a group of the birds with treats tucked away in a box that had five different locking mechanisms keeping it closed.

To unlock it, the cockatoos had to remove a pin, followed by a screw, a bolt, then turn a wheel and move a latch sideways.

Most of the birds were able to figure it out after observing other cockatoos, or being presented with the locks incrementally. But one cockatoo, Pipin, solved the puzzle in two hours —completely unassisted.

The scientists also tested the cockatoos by mixing up the lock sequence. The birds were unfazed by the change, working on the new first step to unlock the box instead of applying the previously learned technique.

Some interestingly takeaways from this study include the observation that the cockatoos' progress was unaffected by the fact that the goal was very distant, and that they're capable of innovating new sequences without further trial. [io9]