The male Palm Cockatoo uses his enormous beak to break off a stick or seedpod from a tree. The bird then fashions it into a sort of drumstick. Clutching the stick in his left foot, he beats on a hollow tree or dead branch. Most animals that use tools do so to get food. But these cockatoos seem to do it specifically to create a rhythmic beat designed to impress potential mates.
Palm Cockatoo Gets the Girl
Written by GrrlScientist
This is BirdNote.
In the music world, it’s often said that the drummer never gets the girl.
[Palm Cockatoo screech]
But is this true? Maybe not for wild Australian Palm Cockatoos.
[Palm Cockatoo screech, then drumming and Australian ambient throughout]
For the first time ever, an animal has been documented making a tool to create music. Male Palm Cockatoos use their enormous beaks to break off a stick or seedpod from a tree. The bird then fashions it into a sort of drumstick. Clutching the stick in his left foot, he beats on a hollow tree.
Most animals that use tools do so to get food. But these cockatoos seem to do it specifically to create a rhythmic beat designed to impress their potential mates.
Drumming is just part of an intricate courtship display. The male cockatoo sways his body, stretches his wings, and erects his long, slender crest feathers, all the while producing loud, high-pitched whistles. Not only that, but he "blushes" — his bare cheek patches turn bright red, contrasting brilliantly with his all-black plumage. As the display continues, he pirouettes on his branch and bobs his head.
If the female watching is impressed, she’ll join the male on his branch and imitate his movements — swaying, bobbing, and whistling alongside him as he drums.
OK, so maybe this drummer does get the girl.
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by E Grieg ML 201166. Additional bird sounds recorded by Robert Heinsohn and Christina Zdenek.
BirdNote’s theme composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler; Managing Producer: Jason Saul; Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2019 Tune In to Nature.org February 2019 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# PROATE-01-2019-02-14 PROATE-01