Vocal individuality, but not stability, in wild palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus)

C. N. Zdenek, R. Heinsohn & N. E. Langmore (2018). Vocal individuality, but not stability, in wild palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus). Bioacoustics, Volume 27 (1): 27 -42

The ability to identify individuals within a population is often essential for a detailed understanding of the ecology and conservation of a species. However, some species, including large parrots, are notoriously difficult to catch and mark for individual identification. Palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) are a large, poorly understood species of parrot which are likely in severe decline within the eastern part – and possibly the western part – of their range on Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Here, we investigated whether three different palm cockatoo call types are sufficiently individually distinctive to function as a non-invasive “marker” for identifying individuals over time. Using Discriminant Function Analysis, overall identification accuracy among 12 putative individuals for all call types was 81% (i.e. 148 out of 183 calls were assigned to the correct individual) on the basis of multiple temporal, energy (amplitude) and frequency measurements on the spectrogram. For three different call types, individual identification accuracy among males and females ranged from 69 to 95%. However, based on a limited sample sizes of five putative individuals between years, our data suggest that individual call structure, as quantified by call parameters, was not stable between years. We discuss the applicability of these results for future studies of palm cockatoos and other parrot species.


Palm cockatoo, Probosciger aterrimus, vocal individuality, parrot behaviour, vocal behaviour, vocal stability, non-invasive identification