Geographic variation in vocal dialect and visual display behaviour in Australian palm cockatoos. (#51)
The Australian palm cockatoo from far north Queensland has a uniquely large vocal repertoire for a parrot which displays striking geographic variation, or dialects. Dialects are a phenomenon for which there is a strong history of exploration in song birds; which remains at an early stage for parrots. Studies on captive parrots have shown that auditory communication plays a functionally different role for parrots than it does for songbirds. Therefore, assuming that similar processes are forming and maintaining dialects in both song birds and parrots might be erroneous. Palm cockatoos give the greatest variety of calls during an extraordinary ritual; which also includes a variety of postures and gestures, including using a manufactured tool to drum. The remarkable vocal and behavioural diversity displayed by Australian palm cockatoos presents an exciting opportunity to investigate the processes underlying such diversity in wild parrots. In this paper we quantify geographic variation in vocalisations, and other ritual behaviours, including drumming, of palm cockatoos throughout their range in Australia, and discuss the processes likely to underlie the patterns we observed.