Palm Cockatoos Attract Females with Beats Because Ladies Love a Drummer

Posted by TF Oren
Photo by C. Zdenek via Science Daily

A number of animal species have shown musical inclinations, but few can hone in on a beat.

One of those few is the palm cockatoo. Native to New Guinea, the Aru Islands, and northern Australia, the shy species is both musician and handyman. Not only does it craft its own drumsticks from tree branches, but it also uses those sticks to hammer out individualized drum beats.

According to Professor Rob Heinsohn of the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society;

"The large smoky-grey parrots fashion thick sticks from branches, grip them with their feet and bang them on trunks and tree hollows, all the while displaying to females...The icing on the cake is that the taps are almost perfectly spaced over very long sequences, just like a human drummer would do when holding a regular beat."

Photo via National Aviary

The palm cockatoo's percussive stylings have long been known to science. However, Heinsohn's is the first research effort to capture them on video.

READ MOREEverything You Need to Know About Cockatoos

Over the course of seven years, Heinsohn and his team tracked a handful of birds through the forest, patiently documenting their individualized, rhythmic mating displays.

"Each of 18 male palm cockatoos, known for their shyness and elusiveness, was shown to have its own style or drumming signature...Some males were consistently fast, some were slow, while others loved a little flourish at the beginning...Such individual styles might allow other birds to recognise who it is drumming from a long way away," Heinsohn says.

Photo via Singing Wings Aviary

This study is part of a larger examination of the palm cockatoo on Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, Australia. Mining activity in the region is causing habitat loss and the research is geared toward better understanding what the conservation needs of the species will look like going forward.

The study was published in "Science Advances" and you can check it out here.

What do you think of these talented little avian drummers? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Palm Cockatoos Attract Females with Beats Because Ladies Love a Drummer