Kea (Nestor notabilis) Decide Early When to Wait in Food Exchange Task

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The ability to forego an immediate reward in favor of a bigger or better one at a later point has been linked with advanced cognitive skills, such as impulse control and forward-planning, and can be assessed by the classic food exchange paradigm. While the ability to perform in such tasks has long been regarded as an exclusive trait of humans and some mammals, that is, primates and dogs, in recent years some bird species have been found to perform similarly as primates. Here we test 10 captive kea (Nestor notabilis), using a food exchange paradigm standardized in earlier experiments, but adding the use of a container to hold the initial item. The subjects reached waiting times of up to 160 s. They also showed significantly different results depending on the difference in the preference level for the presented food items, as well as clearly nonrandom waiting times, displaying forward-planning and economic evaluation of the situation at hand. As in most other species, results were markedly better when exchanging for quality as opposed to quantity. These results provide further evidence for temporal discounting in birds and fit in with the data gained on corvids and parrots in recent years.

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