How do keas (Nestor notabilis) solve artificial-fruit problems with multiple locks?

Hiromitsu Miyata*, Gyula K. Gajdon, Ludwig Huber, Kazuo Fujita

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Keas, a species of parrots from New Zealand, are an interesting species for comparative studies of problem solving and cognition because they are known not only for efficient capacities for object manipulation but also for explorative and playful behaviors. To what extent are they efficient or explorative, and what cognitive abilities do they use? We examined how keas would solve several versions of artificial-fruit box problems having multiple locks. After training keas to remove a metal rod from over a Plexiglas lid that had to be opened, we exposed the birds to a variety of tasks having two or more locks. We also introduced a preview phase during which the keas had extended opportunity to look at the tasks before the experimenter allowed the birds to solve them, to examine whether the preview phase would facilitate the birds' performance on the tasks. In a large number of tests, the keas showed a strong trend to solve the tasks with no positive effect of previewing the tasks. When the tasks became complex, however, the keas corrected inappropriate responses more quickly when they had had chance to preview the problems than when they had not. The results suggest that the keas primarily used explorative strategies in solving the lock problems but might have obtained some information about the tasks before starting to solve them. This may reflect a good compromise of keas' trial-and-error tendency and their good cognitive ability that result from a selection pressure they have faced in their natural habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jan
Externally publishedYes


  • Artificial fruit
  • Avian cognitive processing
  • Keas
  • Locks
  • Problem solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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