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Rosy-faced lovebirds, known for their intelligence, have surprised researchers with their problem-solving abilities, particularly while navigating tricky situations by literally using their heads, according to the New York Times.
In a new study, biomechanist Edwin Dickinson and his team observed how the small parrot moved along small perches in a lab environment. As the perches progressively narrowed, the birds resorted to hanging from their beaks while swinging their bodies, akin to monkeys traversing trees.
This behavior – termed “beakiation” – involves using the head as a third limb and allows the birds to support their entire body weight solely with their beaks.
“In a limb loading sense, they are – on their head itself – able to hold their entire body weight just with their head, which is pretty remarkable,” said co-author Melody Young.
The researchers compared this behavior to the swinging motion of primates on monkey bars, with lovebirds falling in the middle ground between the energetic swings of gibbons and the inverted walking of sloths.
While it’s uncommon for other birds to use their heads for locomotion, the parrot species have previously exhibited coordination between their beaks and legs, the team reported in a previous study.
Although it’s unclear how prevalent beak-swinging is among wild birds, researchers hope to observe this behavior in parrots worldwide.
“It’s likely that parrots all around the world have been doing or are capable of doing something similar for time immemorial,” noted Dickinson.