Old kaka can't learn new tricks - study

The younger kaka were much better at figuring problems out (Simon Wong / Newshub.)
The younger kaka were much better at figuring problems out (Simon Wong / Newshub.)

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks and it could be the same for old kaka, according to new Victoria University research.

A study at Wellington's Zealandia looking into the problem-solving abilities of the native parrot from varying ages was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences today.

It showed a clear difference between the young birds and their older counterparts when it came to the three tasks set for them -- pulling out a wooden block, flipping a lid and pulling a string to get food.

The study tested the cognitive skills of more than 100 wild kaka who frequent the eco-sanctuary, ranging from four months and 13 years.

"Of the twenty-four birds that participated in all three of our problem-solving tasks, juveniles were the most efficient problem-solvers in all three tasks," PhD student Julia Loepelt says.

When it comes to their cleverness, the younger the better.

"Juvenile kaka less than 10 months old were the most efficient problem solvers and success rate decreased with age," she says.

The young birds managed to pull the block out between their first and fourth attempts, but it took the older birds up to 11 tries.

Youngsters tended to try more creative ways to get their reward and they also tried for longer.

It seems their ability to solve the puzzle stops after the age of three.

Ms Loepelt says studying birds' problem-solving abilities in the wild is important to figure out how they deal with changing environments.