Published: Wed, July 10, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Headbanging cockatoo Snowball just wants to have fun

Headbanging cockatoo Snowball just wants to have fun

A scientific study says a dancing cockatoo, which found fame online, shows that spontaneous and diverse dance moves are not unique to humans.

"It's an impulse that arises when certain cognitive and neural capacities come together in an animal's brain". While Snowball had danced to these songs before, it was only ever with his owner who - according to the paper - doesn't have the same range of moves. Researchers say this bird can bob, body roll, head bang, rock it side-to-side and even pull off some moves involving several different body parts, as you can watch in the video below.

His moves include "headbang", "downward", "body role", "side-to-side", "down shake", foot-lift", "foot-lift down swing", "head-foot sync", "headbang with lifted foot", "pose", "semi-circle low", "semi-circle high", "vogue" and "counter-clockwise circle'.

"What's most interesting to us is the sheer diversity of his movements to music", said Dr. Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University and Harvard University.

"It seems that dancing to music isn't purely a product of human culture".

Snowball danced differently each time a new song or beat came on - displaying creativity and a sign of flexibility. The findings were published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

Patel added that while Snowball is "a wonderful animal", he's not unique.

Researchers aren't sure just how Snowball learned to master a breadth of movements, but they suggest birds in the avian order shares five traits with humans that facilitate their tendency to dance, including the ability to imitate movement and a tendency to form long-term social bonds.

The adorable bird has the uncanny ability to follow the beat, and now a new study suggests that Snowball has a whole host of moves in his repertoire.

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Whilespontaneously moving to music is common across humans, it's relatively rare in other species and absent in other non-human primates.

The first iscomplex vocal learning, or the ability to learn to make complex novel sounds based on experience of what we've heard.

The novelty is that the cockatoo has never had a dance lesson in its life, nor has it been taught how to dance by its owners.

All told, the video captured Snowball completing a diverse repertoire of 14 dance movements and two composite movements. "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".

"Snowball developed those moves - much richer than the head bobbing and foot lifting we'd studied before - without any training".

After the research, Schulz noticed that Snowball was experimenting with new moves.

The behaviour has led the team to hypothesise that the cockatoo is partaking in creative social behaviour, interacting with his human "flock" on a level that goes beyond basic desires and needs.

To analyze Snowball's movements, the study's first author R. Joanne Jao Keehn, a cognitive neuroscientist and a classically and contemporarily trained dancer, used frame-by-frame analysis with the audio muted.

She added that, cognitively, moving from imitation to creativity wasn't that hard.

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