Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
 
 
Send Cancel

Drumming cockatoos have signature beats
Palm cockatoo
Palm cockatoos are known for their shyness and elusiveness.

Researchers analyse courting behaviour for the first time

The animal kingdom isn’t short of musical animals; whales and birds can often be heard belting out a song. But new research of the palm cockatoo’s ability to drum has found that not only can it thrash out a tune - but it can also keep a beat.

It has long been known that palm cockatoos bang sticks on tree trunks to impress the opposite sex. But in a new study, researchers at Australian National University (ANU) secured video footage of this behaviour and were able to analyse it for the first time.

The researchers gained the footage slowly over seven years by stalking the birds though the rainforest. They observed the parrots fashion sticks from branches, grip them with their feet and bang them on trunks and tree hollows.

“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,” said Professor Rob Heinsohn, from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Study.

The footage also revealed that each of the 18 male palm cockatoos, known to be shy and elusive, had their own style or signature drum beat.

"Some males were consistently fast, some were slow, while others loved a little flourish at the beginning,” Professor Heinsohn continued. “Such individual styles might allow other birds to recognise who it is drumming from a long way away."

Iconic to Cape York Peninsular in North Queensland, Palm cockatoos are known for their shyness and elusiveness. The drumming is part of the series courtship ritual that involves a lot of calls and movements to attract a mate.

The research, published in Science Advances, is part of a wider study on the conservation needs of palm cockatoos on Cape York Peninsula, where they suffer from low breeding success and loss of habitat due to mining.

Image (C) Dick Daniels/ Wikimedia Commons

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.