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July 14, 2019

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Celeb cockatoo is back

SNOWBALL, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, shot to YouTube stardom a decade ago for his uncanny ability to rock out to the Backstreet Boys.

Now Snowball’s back! And scientists are excited about parrots’ ability to process music and respond. His rhythmic body-rolls, headbangs and shimmies were documented in a new paper published in Current Biology on Monday.

“This shows for the first time that another species truly dances to human music, spontaneously and without training, just based on its own development and social interaction with humans,” senior author Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at both Tufts and Harvard universities, said.

This isn’t the first time Snowball has rendered his services for the noble pursuit of scientific discovery.

An earlier study by Patel in the same journal confirmed our feathered friend could groove to the beat — though at the time, his dancing was confined to head bobbing and lifting his feet, actions long associated with courtship. Snowball’s owner Irena Schulz, who takes care of him at a bird sanctuary in Duncan, South Carolina, noticed he was making movements to music she hadn’t seen before.

The development was all the more remarkable for the fact that she hadn’t attempted to train him, save for providing some verbal encouragement with words like “Good Boy!” as she swayed back and forth and waved her hands. Looking ahead, Patel is keen to explore this social context and determine if Snowball dances to strengthen his bond with people.


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