Speed Reads

drum roll please

Male cockatoos attract the ladies with their drumming skills, study suggests

Scientists have uncovered evidence that humans aren't the only species that can play musical instruments. After seven years of observing 18 male palm cockatoos in Australia's Cape York Peninsula, researchers realized that male cockatoos put on drumming performances to attract females.

The scientists found that the birds "produced regular, predictable rhythms, rather than random thumps," The New York Times reported. Different males had unique styles of drumming, with some tapping "more slowly on average and others more quickly," said lead author Robert Heinsohn. "Some would start with a faster flourish before settling into their steady rhythm," Heinsohn said.

So, how does a cockatoo drum? The New York Times painted a picture:

A palm cockatoo drumming performance starts with instrument fashioning — an opportunity to show off beak strength and cleverness (the birds are incredibly intelligent). Often, as a female is watching, a male will ostentatiously break a hefty stick off a tree and trim it to about the length of a pencil.

Holding the stick, or occasionally a hard seedpod, with his left foot (parrots are typically left-footed), the male taps a beat on his tree perch. Occasionally he mixes in a whistle or other sounds from an impressive repertoire of around 20 syllables. [The New York Times]

The drumming seems to be unique to palm cockatoos in Australia's Cape York Peninsula though, suggesting "the habit is cultural," the Times wrote. "Presumably some bright spark of a male stumbled across this behavior, females found it pleasing, and it took off in the population," Heinsohn said.

Catch a glimpse of a cockatoo drumming below. Becca Stanek