Sometimes, you can’t have a cookie without some milk. Some cockatoos might feel similarly, according to a new study.
Other birds, including grackles and blackbirds, have been known to dunk their food in water before they eat it.
But this is the first time that any type of parrot has been observed doing this, the researchers report in the study, which was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Biology Letters.
The scientists of the study determined that the cockatoos were dunking food to change its texture.
“To go through all this effort just to change the texture of your food is quite impressive,” study co-author Alice Auersperg, a cognitive biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, told The New York Times.
This behavior is not only human-like but also a prime example of birds’ inventive nature. The authors of the study wrote that.
Maybe bird brain isn’t much of an insult, after all.
How scientists figured out dunking was for texture
The scientists observed a group of 18 Goffin’s cockatoos over twelve days. Seven of the Goffin’s cockatoos dipped their crackers into water prior to eating.
Sometimes certain birds held the cracker in water for a few seconds while other times they’d hold it for over half a minute — long enough to make the bottom soft, the researchers reported in the study.
Imagine holding your cookie in milk for 30 seconds before taking that delicious first bite — these birds certainly exhibited some self-control.
Some birds dipped banana chips and coconut chips in milk, but this is less common.
There are a few reasons animals might dip their food in liquid, the study elaborated.
Soaking hard food might change its texture, clean it, make it tastier, allow the bird to transport water for drinking, or be a way to drown and kill live prey.
In the case of this study, however, its authors examined each possibility and determined that the one which made the most sense, given the animals unique environment, was changing the texture of the food.
Louis Lefebvre, a biologist at McGill University who wasn’t involved in the study, told The Times that this was “a cool study.”
A peculiar preference or common behavior?
Though the dunking behavior is intriguing, more research is necessary to determine if the behavior is widespread among cockatoos or just a peculiar preference among this group.
Only about 38% of the birds observed in the study were dunkers, and the researchers reported that no one has documented dunking among wild Goffin’s cockatoos.
Moreover, the scientists aren’t sure if the dunking birds developed that behavior on their own or learned it from watching other birds do it, The Times reported.
“Future research should focus on the change and diffusion of this behavior in the group,” the researchers reported in the study.