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Why Do Cockatoos Dance?

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No matter how many times you play your favorite tune for Fido, your dog isn’t going to bob his head to the beat. However, cockatoos and other parrots have the ability to dance along to music. Cockatoos, known for their cuddly and social personalities, commonly get down to a good beat.

Social Birds

Cockatoos are very social birds, and they crave the company of their human companions. Nothing makes your cockatoo happier than some playtime with you. These birds often make noises, squawk or act silly just to get your attention when you’re not playing with them. If your cockatoo got you smiling and watching the last time he rocked out to a song, it’s likely that you’ll see him dancing again to get your attention.

How Cockatoos Dance

Although cockatoos do possess the ability to bounce around to the beat, you won’t see your pal doing the robot any time soon. A cockatoo dances by bobbing his head and kicking his legs to the beat. When he’s feeling really showy, he might lift the crest of feathers on top of his head, or spread his wings. Although he’s no Fred Astaire, a friendly cockatoo knows how to get his groove on.


Snowball, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, shot to Internet fame when a video of him dancing to the Backstreet Boys was posted online. Millions of people became enamored with the bird’s head-banging dance to the pop tune. Snowball wasn’t alone; the Internet became flooded with videos of cockatoos and other parrots seemingly dancing to music. Neurobiologist Aniruddh Patel saw the video and it led him to wonder whether Snowball simply was doing a trick, or whether cockatoos actually were capable of spontaneously moving to a beat the way humans do.


Patel looked at dozens of videos of animals “dancing” to music. What Snowball and other parrots did was very unusual; they could move to different songs at varying speeds. When Patel changed the speed of the music, Snowball kept the beat no matter how slow or fast Patel made the song. This means cockatoos are capable of understanding a beat and moving to it the same way humans do. Because cockatoos are mimicking birds, their brains are hard-wired to connect sounds with motor skills. When you dance along with the radio it doesn't seem anything special, but very few animals can do this.