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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

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Art installation uses 15,000 discarded plastic bottles

News Story 1
 London Zoo has unveiled a new art installation made from 15,000 discarded single-use plastic bottles, all of which were collected from London and its waterways. The installation, dubbed the Space of Waste, is 16ft tall and was created by the artist and architect Nick Wood. It houses information about plastic pollution and the small steps that everyone can take to tackle the issue.

Mr Wood commented: “Building this piece with ZSL was a satisfying challenge, as plastic bottles are not usually seen as a building material – recycling them into this structure, which will remain at ZSL London Zoo all summer, was a great way to turn the culprits themselves into a stark visual reminder of the worsening plastic problem in our city.” Image © David Parry/PAWIRE/ZSL 

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