A recent study has revealed that we aren’t the only ones familiar with grinding. Vasa parrots use and share tools to grind shells as observed in an eight-month long experiment conducted by researchers with the University of York and the University of Saint Andrews.
Parrots are fascinating creatures. Ten Vasa parrots (Coracopsis Vasa) have been observed over the course of eight months in an aviary located in the U.K., in the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park. Vasa parrots, native to Madagascar, captured the attention of the research team when some of the birds were seen collecting date pits.
What could a parrot do with date pits? As it turns out, Vasa parrots carefully collected the date pits each time they were fed with the nutritious fruits only to use them at a later time to grind shells spread throughout the aviary. Shells are known to a crucial source of calcium for birds. Yet, this is the first time when this behavior was observed. Vasa parrots use and share tools to grind shells.
They may not be the masterminds of some world-changing technological advancements. But they’re definitely the masterminds in the animal kingdom.
The Vasa parrots used pebbles in addition to date pits to grind shells and obtain the much-needed calcium powder. The tools were placed inside the shells to use either as a leverage in breaking them or to use rub against the surface so the calcium powder could be obtained. Five out of ten Vasa parrots were found to use the technique.
Furthermore, according to the researchers, this is the first proof on non-humans using tools for the purpose of grinding. What surprised the researchers even more was the birds’ eagerness to share their knowledge and tools with their aviary pals.
It might be that some of the Vasa parrots acquired the skills by imitation. Nonetheless, the fact that they used grinding tools to obtain calcium powder remains fascinating. According to the findings published in the Biology Letters, the grinding process took on new intensity in March and cooled down towards the end of April.
The period is known to predate the Vasa parrots breeding season. During the breeding season females require extra calcium powder to lay healthy eggs. The interesting point is that the males were the ones doing all the hard work. They collected the grinding tools and rubbed or broke the shells until they obtained calcium powder.
Once they fed on it, they returned to the female Vasa parrots and fed them before copulation. This might indicate the calcium powder benefits were thus transmitted and could be part of the mating ritual.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia