When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade… unless you’re Bruce the parrot. Then you make your own prosthetic beak!
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in New Zealand rescued Bruce when he was just a baby. He was already missing his upper beak, something they believe happened when he was caught in a trap. As serious as this type of injury is for a bird, Bruce has managed to find clever ways to accomplish all of his everyday tasks.
That’s partly because he’s a species of parrot called a kea. These New Zealand natives are considered to be some of the most intelligent birds out there, and it’s no wonder: They’re the only animals other than great apes to demonstrate that they can weigh probabilities when making decisions.
Despite their advanced intellect, researchers and scientists are stunned over the methods Bruce has devised to adapt to his disability. For example, he eats harder foods by pressing them against hard objects in order to soften them.
But what impresses scientists the most is the way he has created a prosthetic beak of sorts using pebbles. Once he finds a perfectly-sized rock, he holds it between his tongue and lower beak. Next, he uses the stone to groom himself.
Bruce’s invention is so novel that a study was conducted and published in the journal Scientific Reports in affiliation with the University of Auckland.
“Kea do not regularly display tool use in the wild, so to have an individual innovate tool use in response to his disability shows great flexibility in their intelligence,” said Amalia Bastos, the report’s lead author. “They’re able to adapt and flexibly solve new problems as they emerge.”
As clear as it seemed to everyone at the wildlife reserve that Bruce was using these pebbles as tools intentionally, in their study, they had to be diligent to record evidence that this was the case.
“The main criticism we received prior to publication was, ‘Well this activity with the pebbles was maybe accidental — you saw him when, by coincidence, he had a pebble in his mouth,'” Amalia said. “But no. This has been repeated several times. He drops the pebble, he’s going to pick it up. He wants that pebble. If he doesn’t lick himself, he doesn’t pick up a pebble for nothing else.”
By the end of the study, they were shown to be correct! In addition to proving just how special and intelligent Bruce is, they further proved how much more we have to learn about the rest of the beautiful creatures on Earth.
“Bruce didn’t see anyone do this,” Amalia said. “He just made it up on his own, which is pretty cool. We have been fortunate enough to observe this. We can learn a lot if we pay a little more attention to what animals are doing, both in the wild and in captivity.”
See Bruce in action in the video below, and don’t forget to share this incredible story with a friend.
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