Cockatoo choreographed his own dance moves: study
Cawing all dancers!
A cockatoo named Snowball was able to choreograph 14 fly dance moves on his own — including headbanging, and even Vogueing — showing that spontaneously moving to music isn’t unique to humans, a study published Monday found.
The prancing parrot rose to YouTube fame a decade ago over a video of him foot-tapping and head-bobbing to “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys.
Now, the study published in the journal Current Biology, shows the yellow-crested bird wasn’t just mirroring his owner, but can actually impulsively move to music, creating a variety of steps on his own.
“What’s most interesting to us is the sheer diversity of his movements to music,” said senior author Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University and Harvard University, noting that Snowball developed the elaborate moves without training.
A study on Snowball from 2009 showed he anticipates the beat of a song and moves to it — a natural ability that is present in humans but absent in other primates.
Soon after, the parrot’s owner, and a co-author on the new paper, Irena Schults, noticed Snowball pulling off movements she hadn’t seen before.
So researchers decided to study similarities between Snowball’s dancing and that of humans, including body parts used to respond to music and the diversity of steps.
Footage filmed by the researchers shows Snowball grooving to ’80s hits like Queens’ “Another One Bites the Dust” and Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by bobbing, swinging and circling his head in different ways, sometimes coordinating the moves with foot lifts.
The video, which was analyzed by the study’s first author R. Joanne Jao Keehn, a cognitive neuroscientist and a trained dancer, shows Snowball completing a repertoire of 14 dance moves.
“He has this incredible repertoire. His movements to music are amazingly diverse,” Patel told The Guardian.
“There are moves in there, like the Madonna Vogue move, that I just can’t believe.”
Researchers are now probing whether Snowball will dance if there’s no one watching.
“People are fine listening to music on their own, but when it comes to dancing, people want to do that with friends rather than put music on in their living room and dance by themselves,” Patel said.
“We’ll see if Snowball is the same.”
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