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New Research Shows That Parrots Will Wait For A Better Offer

Researchers studying Goffin's cockatoos found out that the parrots would hold onto a treat so they could later exchange it for they considered a better treat.

Jessica Pineda
Posted: March 13, 2013, 5:30 p.m. PST

Goffin's cockatoos
By Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
If given a choice, a Goffin's cockatoo will hold out for a better treat offer.
Every bird owner knows that when getting a bird to try a new food (especially pellets), it can be like pulling teeth. At some point, you'll give in and just give your bird her old food just so she eats. But did you know your bird might be waiting for that? New research shows that given the choice, a parrot will hold out for what she considers the better offer.

This was shown in a study called “Goffin cockatoos wait for qualitative and quantitative gains but prefer ‘better' to ‘more',” published in Biology Letters. Alice Auersperg of the University of Vienna's Department of Cognitive Biology gave some Goffin's cockatoos a choice: have a pecan now, or hold onto that pecan to later trade it for a cashew. Since cashews were the more preferred item for the cockatoos, they more often than not traded their pecan for it.

It's rare to find impulse control over food in nonhuman animals, and only primates and corvids have been shown to have this ability. Now added to that list are Goffin's cockatoos. Even children struggle with this concept, as shown in the 1970s marshmallow study. Children were offered a marshmallow and told they could eat it now, or hold onto it so they could receive another marshmallow later. Where parrots take it to the next level, as Auersperg pointed out, is that they have to hold the food in their mouths before they can trade in for the better nut. Most likely, they can taste the food, and have to resist nibbling on it.

Read more at Discovery News here.

Read the original study here.

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New Research Shows That Parrots Will Wait For A Better Offer

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Reader Comments
This is probably just the tip of the iceberg so to speak.I have told a story about my African Grey for years that blew me away!We had a short discussion,she asked a question and had responses that I never heard her say before.But it was an intelligent conversation,not something that she could have possibly just mimicked.Twenty years later and I still get goosebumps remembering it.
Traci, Glendale, OR
Posted: 6/21/2013 2:00:40 PM
This is certainly very interesting ot know and read about.
colleen, manchester, PA
Posted: 5/25/2013 9:51:38 PM
Have a Happy Easter. Very interesting.
janet, henderson, NV
Posted: 3/30/2013 4:54:42 PM
I've seen my foster Citron of two weeks do just as described in this article. An almond was happily traded for a pecan.
Charles, Orlando, FL
Posted: 3/15/2013 7:59:23 PM
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