Self-Taught Cockatoo, Snowball, Knows How to Dance 14 Different Moves

Snowball the dancing cockatoo is back—with a whole new set of moves

The cockatoo called Snowball has invented 14 different movements and even combines some of them. A new study reveals that the internet-famous cockatoo named Snowball can do more than just bust moves - whether headbanging, wildly tapping its foot or gyrating its mohawked head - in sync with the beat of the music.

Intrigued, researchers studied Snowball to gain insight into how animals process music, which in turn could shed light on the evolution of human musicality, said Aniruddh Patel, a professor of psychology at Tufts University in MA. "There are moves in there, like the Madonna Vogue move, that I just can't believe".

To find out whether that is also true of Snowball, they are carrying out new experiments in which he is either left alone with music and recorded on camera; has a human present who doesn't encourage him; or has a human present who encourages him and dances along.

"We think the impulse to dance to music arises when certain cognitive and neural capacities come together in animal brains", Professor Patel said.

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

You may Snowball from a 2007 video of the bird dancing to "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys.

She goes on to note she doesn't personally use the dance moves Snowball seemed to be trying out.

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.

The authors of the study, published in Current Biology, questioned how he acquired his dance skills, as the motions didn't appear to be mimicked.

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As far as the researchers know, Snowball is only non-human animal that has come up with their own dance to a beat. After filming the cockatoo dancing to '80s classics "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", scientists recorded 14 different dance moves.

Had Snowball lifted his game to another level and taught himself some slick new moves?

"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. He was played each track three times. As it stands, Snowball doesn't dance in anticipation of food or to mate.

Looking ahead, Patel and his colleagues are keen to explore this social context and determine if Snowball dances to strengthen his bond with people.

"Irena Schulz noticed that he was making some new movements to music when she danced with him, including things that she wasn't doing", Patel said.

But nearly nothing - not the dogs and cats we share our homes with, nor the apes and monkeys who are our closest genetic relatives - could do what Snowball does.

For humans, dancing is a form of social interaction.

Rather than wandering onto the dancefloor at a wedding after a few shots of Dutch courage, like your average dancer (bonus points if Mandoza's "Nkalakatha" is playing), Snowball has become known around the world for his moves.

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