Rocking cockatoo steps out

Central Station | 10 Jul 2019

Snowball, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, shot to YouTube stardom a decade ago for his uncanny ability to rock to the Backstreet Boys.

Now Snowball's back, having taught himself a dizzying array of new moves that have scientists excited about parrots' ability to process music. His rhythmic body-rolls, headbangs and shimmies were documented in a paper published in Current Biology.

"This shows for the first time that another species truly dances to human music, spontaneously and without training, just based on its own development and social interaction with humans," senior author Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist, said.

It started when Irena Schulz, who takes care of Snowball at a bird sanctuary in South Carolina, noticed he was making movements to music she hadn't seen before.

Then the scientists played him the 1980s classics Another One Bites the Dust and Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

Researchers confirmed Snowball had acquired a diverse repertoire of 14 moves and two combination moves.

"I wish I could dance like Snowball," said Patel.

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