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Animal World: Our Co-inhabitants

Palm Cockatoo-People: Nature’s Winged Drummers

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My species is originally from northern Queensland. With a body length of approximately 60 centimeters and a wingspan of 1 meter or more, we are the largest of all 18 kinds of cockatoo-people on Earth. Our cheeks are surprisingly red! What's more, these patches of bare skin are automatic mood indicators and sometimes change to pink, beige and even yellow. Some of our favorite habitats are eucalyptus woodlands, gallery forests, and dense savannas. Our diet consists of leaf buds, seeds, nuts, and fruits.

When our lives reach the phase of wanting to start a family, our males manifest a unique talent. Since we cannot dig spaces for our nests, we must find tree trunks that have already been hollowed out – preferably off-vertical and skyward-facing. So, cockatoo-guys take responsibility for this and begin to search by fashioning drumsticks and tapping on selected parts of trees. Some of them snap off part of a branch with their powerful beak and then trim it so that it's close to 20 centimeters. Others choose to use a hard seed pod, which they may modify. Either way, they grab their tool with one foot, start to knock and listen to the sound, which can carry up to 100 meters. They say it is the only known example of nonhuman drumming using prepared sound tools.

When researchers later analyzed the footage, they realized that the percussive sounds were not random but rhythmic, meaning they followed a regular pattern, just as with human music. Not only that, but each drummer also had their own style and cadence. Palm cockatoo-people are monogamous, which means couples remain faithful to each other. For young cockatoo-guys, then, this drumming on trees is more than just finding a suitable place to build a nest. It's about attracting the love of their life!

If we are precious to some of you, and you understand how we benefit fruit-bearing trees by dispersing their seeds, please do what you can to protect our habitat.

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