Ha, ha! Check this out! It's a dancing cockatoo! This is how Snowball, a bird with a passion for dance, made the rounds as a viral video sensation getting down to the Backstreet Boys back in 2007. But Snowball is more than an amusement, he's also the star of a new scientific study.
Researchers are studying Snowball to learn how dancing can transcend the human condition and extend to our avian friends. "Spontaneity and diversity of movement to music are not uniquely human" is the title of a paper published Monday in the journal Current Biology.
A previous parrot study (and animals can keep a musical beat, but this new Snowball research suggests the bird is inventing moves as he goes.) showed some
The science team, led by cognitive neuroscientist Aniruddh Patel of Tufts University and Harvard University, filmed Snowball dancing to Queen's Another One Bites the Dust and Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want to Have Fun. They analyzed the bird's movements.
The researchers counted 14 distinct dance moves and two composite movements. Snowball's skills included a body roll, head bobs, foot lifts, head banging and a move reminiscent of Madonna's '90s Vogue dance craze. Snowball's dance snippets tended to be performed for several seconds each, and he changed up his routine each time he heard a song again.
"What's most interesting to us is the sheer diversity of his movements to music," Patel said in a statement on Monday.
The study suggests Snowball may be displaying creativity in his dancing. The research team is currently investigating if the cockatoo's capers are a form of social interaction with his human caregivers.
The researchers said a collection of shared traits between humans and parrots might be responsible for Snowball's dancing prowess: "(1) complex vocal learning, (2) the capacity for nonverbal movement imitation, (3) a tendency to form long-term social bonds, (4) the ability to learn complex sequences of actions, and (5) attentiveness to communicative movements."
Snowball seems to be showing that cutting a rug and getting creative with it isn't just for people. Perhaps he'll earn himself an invite to Dancing with the Stars.