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And Your Bird Can Dance

We respond to music, to beats, it is unavoidable, even babies do it, it's like an innate reaction. Where does this come from? Are we the only ones capable of doing it?

Certainly not! Although I have never seen my cat moving his head or tapping his paws in rhythm when I play music, there are some other species that may seem to have this ability.

A Researcher from San Diego’s Neurosciences institute has found evidence that cockatoos, not only respond to music, but have true dancing skills! Just look at the video below which shows Snowball the parrot dancing with 3 different tempos in perfect time with them: he can slow down or speed up exactly following the number of beats per minute!

And this is not a trick, this experiment was done under laboratory conditions for a serious scientific study.

 The researcher even made 11 different versions of ‘Everybody’ by the Backstreet Boys (yes, parrots or researchers can have bad tastes) that were from 2.5% to 20% faster or slower compared to the original, and the parrot bobbed his head and feet in time with the beats in about 60% of the trials,… not bad! Even when he stopped he went back to his excellent timing right away, proving his moves were not random. Actually scientists have calculated that the odds that he was simply fluking his rhythm were 1 in 500.

 They even played new tunes to test the ability of Alex, another parrot, to adapt to novelty and this is what they found:

‘Alex had never heard the music we played for him in the study before. It was entirely novel; we made it ourselves. For most of the stimuli Snowball heard, he had only heard these songs once or twice before, and a dance-like response was reported on the first time he heard them.  So it doesn't look like these animals underwent any sort of intensive training to make this response happen’. 

Look at him, his head, his feet, I must say he is much better than many humans I have seen (and I include myself), and he is proving we are far from being the only species which is responding to music.

 Researchers think that parrots’ dancing skills come from their talent for mimicking the sounds of their surrounding, which made them develop a very good coordination between their excellent sense of hearing and their motor functions. Whales, dolphins, seals, elephants and some bats, beside parrots and songbirds, would also have this ability.

 These studies would in fact reveal a lot about the origin of our appreciation for music: it would be a by-product of our ability for vocal mimicry.

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