COCKATOOS GOT RHYTHM
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