Male cockatoos have the beat | Science News


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Male cockatoos have the beat

New study suggests that birds’ drum grooves are analogous to human music

2:45pm, June 28, 2017
male cockatoo

ROCK ON  A male cockatoo (right) woos a female with vocal calls, blushing red cheek feathers, head crest erection and rhythmic drum performances in trees, using a self-fashioned drumstick.  

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Like 1980s hair bands, male cockatoos woo females with flamboyant tresses and killer drum solos.

Male palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) in northern Australia refashion sticks and seedpods into tools that the animals use to bang against trees as part of an elaborate visual and auditory display designed to seduce females. These beats aren’t random, but truly rhythmic, researchers report online June 28 in Science Advances. Aside from humans, the birds are the only known animals to craft drumsticks and rock out.

“Palm cockatoos seem to have their own internalized notion of a regular beat, and that has become an important part of the display from males to females,” says Robert Heinsohn, an evolutionary biologist at the Australian National University in Canberra. In addition to drumming, mating displays entail fluffed up head

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