Greater vasa parrots used pebbles to grind off calcium
(Mirror Daily, United States) – In a pure lucky discovery, researchers found that greater vasa parrots use grinding tools to get calcium, which makes them the first non-humans to reach such an achievement. The black-feathered parrots which originate in Madagascar are already known for their cleverness. However, a team of scientists fortunately found that their even more intelligent than estimated.
Lead author of the study, Megan Lambert, from the University of York, and her colleagues were observing 10 greater vasa parrots in an enclosure in the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom. The floor of their entrapment was covered with cockleshells, pebbles, wood chips, and soil.
According to Lambert, they noted that the black birds were interacting a lot with the bits of material found on the floor, so they investigated further. When they took a closer look, they found that the vasa parrots were actually using smaller pebbles as tools against the cockleshells. Since seashells are mostly made of calcium carbonate, the clever birds grinded the rough pebble against their surface until it created a fine powder.
Then, the vasa parrots proceeded to lick up the extra boost of nutritious calcium. Some even used the pebbles to break the cockleshells into smaller, more manageable pieces that they could digest. As stated by the researchers, this means that the vasa parrots are the only non-humans in the world to use tools for grinding. Furthermore, they understood their need of calcium and found a way to get it.
As stated by the researchers, the parrots do not have the natural ability of mammals to store calcium in their skeleton. Thus, they resort to different methods of acquiring that extra boost. It’s believed that this is more common around mating season, due to the fact that they need the calcium for their eggshells.
Interestingly, it was observed that the males had more of a penchant for using tools. It’s believed that they’re motivated by the need to regurgitate food to females during courtship, copulation, and incubation. The males could actually provide the females the necessary amount of calcium needed for their eggshells.
However, further steady is required to see if this is a seasonal habit or frequent method. It first needs to be understood if the same happens in the wild, if it’s an innate ability, or a technique learned from others.
Reportedly, there are 300 parrot species around the world, but only a handful know how to use tools. The greater vasa parrot has just become one of them.
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