COCKATOOS GOT RHYTHM

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

Birds might gen­er­ally be bet­ter known for their singing, but new re­search car­ried out by Prof Rob Hein­sohn from the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity (ANU) has proved they can also be a dab hand on the drums.

The palm cock­a­too – also known as the go­liath or great black cock­a­too – is na­tive to New Guinea and to Aus­tralia’s Cape York Penin­sula, an area of un­tamed wilder­ness in the far north of Queens­land. It was here that Hein­sohn’s team were, for the first time, able to cap­ture enough film of the reclu­sive species’ drum­ming be­hav­iour, which had pre­vi­ously been re­ported anec­do­tally, for se­ri­ous study. The footage was ob­tained as part of a wider study into the bird’s con­ser­va­tion needs.

Hein­sohn and his team at the ANU Fen­ner School of En­vi­ron­ment and So­ci­ety an­a­lysed seven years’ worth of footage of 18 male cockatoos, and found that all 18 of the birds drummed reg­u­larly.

“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,” said Hein­sohn. “The ic­ing on the cake is that the taps are al­most per­fectly spaced over very long se­quences, just like a hu­man drum­mer would do.”

What’s more, each cock­a­too was found to have its own sig­na­ture style, with some drum­ming faster or slower, and oth­ers in­tro­duc­ing dis­tinc­tive flour­ishes to the other­wise reg­u­lar beat. It’s thought that this en­ables other cockatoos to de­ter­mine who is drum­ming where.

Dave the cock­a­too had been prac­tis­ing for his Count­ing Crows au­di­tion

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