Watch this cockatoo make music with a stick

Cockatoos are already known for their wicked dance moves, but a new study reveals that they can create their own beat as well. Researchers observing 18 palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) in northern Australia discovered that, when courting a mate, male cockatoos grab a stick or a seedpod and start rhythmically whacking a hollow tree branch, producing a steady beat. Previous examples of tool use in birds were all survival-related, such as gathering food. However, these improvised drumsticks suggest that the birds are trying to be heard over a wider area, the team reports today in Science Advances. Though chimpanzees have been spotted drumming in the past, and harbor seals can follow a beat, the use of tools to assist in making music has only ever been observed in one other species: humans. Much like music created by human drummers, the cockatoos’ beats remain consistent over time and are individually recognizable. In the future, the researchers want to see whether the beats change when another male bird is within earshot.