Over the years, science has proved that birds don’t only enjoy listening to music, but they also love to dance to the beat.1 They do so in multiple ways, including bobbing their heads, swirling their bodies, and taping their feet synced with the tune.
Multiple studies found different bird species dancing to varying songs on YouTube. One such research was published in Current Biology in which a sulfur-colored cockatoo named “Snowball” was reported grooving along to a YouTube video with music in the background.2
So, the question is, what makes birds dance to music? Do they love listening to songs, or is there any other factor that makes them do so? Let’s dig deeper into the famous “Snowball” study and find our answers.
Birds Show a Child-Like Dancing Display
In the study conducted at The Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California,3 the researcher Dr. Aniruddh Patel found Snowball dancing to the steady beats of the rock song “Another One Bites the Dust.” Dr. Patel then used the popular Cyndi Lauper track “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” to see how the bird would react to a different song.
While the cockatoo danced differently in every video, the scientist concluded that the bird’s dancing combination comprises particular moves. These include banging his head, swaying his body, and tapping his foot according to the musical rhythms.
Sometimes, the bird may move differently, like a kid trying to match their movements to beats. Dr. Patel further adds that the dancing pattern of Snowball is primarily out of sync, similar to a child.
In another study,4 psychologist Adena Schachner studied the dancing pattern of an African gray parrot along with Snowball. Schachner concluded that Snowball could also move their body parts to the song’s beats. This behavior is the same as humans.
Can Birds Do Vocal Mimicry?
Schachner and her team also studied YouTube videos on animals dancing to songs. Their goal was to identify the rhythm and movements of different species to musical beats. They spotted 14 parrots and one Asian elephant that could dance to songs in different patterns.
The common trait among the entire dancing group was vocal mimicry. Dancing was believed to be the result of this skill. Moreover, the researchers found that elephants and parrots can imitate noises, such as moving cars or repeating anything they hear.
When it comes to birds, Snowball surprised his owner by dancing to German Polka tunes. Irena Schulz said she didn’t expect her cockatoo to bang its head with so much passion for the German beats.
Why Do Birds Dance to Music?
Music creates happiness, sadness, and multiple other emotions in the listeners’ hearts. It helps us channel our emotions in the best way. That is why we listen to it. But why do birds listen to or dance to music? Do they experience the same emotions as we do?
Understandably, a bird’s mind can’t possibly translate a song’s lyrics. But they can connect with its beats, vocal patterns, rhythms, and other elements. That is the main factor inducing the dancing behavior in them.
Many birds also create their own songs to communicate with others. Over time, multiple studies have researched the actual intent of a bird dancing to music. Do they experience pleasure, or is it just a neural response to specific beats?
In an Emory University study in 2012,5 scientists found that when female birds listen to bird songs, their brains respond like a human mind. This means their brain employs the same pathways as humans when listening to music.
Regarding males, researchers revealed that the neural pathways were too complicated to identify as positive or negative. In fact, some males become angry at a few songs.
Many birds also learn to dance to particular songs from their owners. They mimic the dancing behavior when they see their human parents starting a tune and moving to its beat. Over time, you will see your bird dancing to that song as soon as it plays.
Do Birds Like Particular Types of Music?
Yes, birds can be picky when liking or dancing to music. Many owners report that they found their birds dancing to only a specific style of music. Their likeness is to this extent that they even rejected other songs with a strong dislike.
One study confirms that parrots are choosy when picking their favorite music.6 Some birds like to listen to calm, classical music, while others prefer louder rock tunes. The study also concluded that most birds dislike electronic music. This shows that birds also have different preferences about what they want to listen to.
The researchers installed touch screens on two parrots’ cages to detect if they could self-select tunes. The screen provided various types of music to parrots to suit their choices. After a month, it was found that both birds chose their favorite songs more than 1,400 times.
At the end of this study, the researchers concluded that we should install selectable jukeboxes in our parrot’s cages to provide them with self-entertainment. This way, they won’t get bored and show destructive behavior.
Of course, we still need more research to confirm the type of music birds appreciate. However, one thing is sure. Birds don’t like harsh electronic songs; they prefer music of a specific type.
Birds not only dance to music, but they also have specific preferences when it comes to listening to a song. Many studies have found that birds dance in a certain way, including head bobbing, foot stomping, and swirling their bodies. That’s primarily applicable to parrots, including cockatoos.
Scientists also concluded that birds dance in a child-like manner. Moreover, they can do vocal mimicry like humans.
Another study also found that parrots can be picky when listening to or dancing to a song. While some prefer calm tunes, others begin dancing to rock music. However, most species showed a strong dislike towards electronic songs.
Featured Image Credit: Galina Zhilinskya, Shutterstock