New Scientist gets down with the drum circles of the male palm cockatoos – birds that make their own drumsticks to beat out sexy rhythms:
Palm cockatoos are the only species other than us known to make a musical tool or instrument, perform with that instrument and repeat musical patterns throughout the performance, says Robert Heinsohn at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Over a seven-year period, Heinsohn and his colleagues have filmed and analysed more than 60 cockatoo drumming events in Queensland’s Kutini-Payamu National Park.
The drumming is part of a complex display that males put on for any watching females. Sometimes the males drum with a large seed pod. On other occasions, they snap off a small branch, trim it down to about 20 centimetres and bring it to the nests they make in tree hollows.
They hold the drumstick in their left foot and bang it on the tree while making complex calls, flapping their wings and erecting their feathery crest.
Each of the 18 birds that the team observed had its own unique drumming style. Some had a slow and steady beat, others played faster and with more variability.
Heinsohn hopes to find out more about the drumming behaviour by, for instance, playing back recordings to see how they respond to rhythmic versus non-rhythmic beats.
Oh, dear. They’re introducing math rock to the animals. WHAT HATH SCIENCE WROUGHT?
More seriously, the team has a “video abstract” here.