As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Snowball the dancing cockatoo has many moves

JULY 8, 2019

A sulphur-crested cockatoo named Snowball garnered YouTube fame and headlines a decade ago for his uncanny ability to dance to the beat of the Backstreet Boys. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on July 8 are back with new evidence that Snowball isn't limited in his dance moves. Despite a lack of dance training, new videos show that Snowball responds to music with diverse and spontaneous movements using various parts of his body.
The finding is more than an entertaining novelty act. It suggests that dancing to musicisn't an arbitrary product of human culture but a response to music that arises when certain cognitive and neural capacities come together in animal brains, the researchers say.
"What's most interesting to us is the sheer diversity of his movements to music," says senior author Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University and Harvard University, noting that Snowball developed those moves—much richer than the head bobbing and foot lifting they'd studied before—without any training.
Patel's earlier study, also published in Current Biology (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.038), confirmed that Snowball could move to the beat. That was notable in part because dancing is a natural ability in humans that's absent in other primates. Soon after that study, Snowball's owner and an author on the new paper, Irena Schulz, noticed that Snowball was making movements to music she hadn't seen before.

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