[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Forget “Polly wanna cracker.” Polly wants to boogie. Or so say scientists in a pair of papers in the April 30th issue of the journal Current Biology. They found that some birds, especially parrots, can bob their heads, tap their feet and sway their bodies to a musical beat.
It’s long been thought that dancing is a uniquely human hobby. Chimps don’t move to the groove. And when was the last time you saw Fido or Fluffy shake their furry booties? But Snowball the cockatoo is another story. That bird’s got rhythm. Researchers found that Snowball can adjust the tempo of his dance moves to coincide with the speed of the music. In this study, the tune was “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys, one of the cockatoo’s faves.
But Snowball’s not the only bird who likes to boogie. In a separate study, researchers searched YouTube for videos of dancing animals. Of the 1,000 they turned up, only 15 critters actually moved in sync with the beat. Fourteen of those were parrots, one was an elephant. Pachyderms, parrots and people are all vocal mimics. So the neural circuits for vocal learning may also enable moving to the beat.
For more about vocal mimicry in parrots, check out "Why do parrots have the ability to mimic?"
For more on vocal mimicry in elephants, see "Elephants Found Capable of Vocal Mimicry"
For more on intelligence in parrots, go to "Bird Brains: Are Parrots Smarter Than a Human Two-Year-Old?"