A sulphur-crested cockatoo named Snowball, the internet’s only and most famous dancing sensation with a beak and feathers, is back in the news – this time for learning 14 new dance moves all by himself.
The video has been put together by Snowball’s caretaker Irena Schulz, director of the Bird Lovers Only rescue centre in Dyer, Indiana, USA. It displays not only the bird’s ability to perform varied dance moves, but also demonstrates his creativity and spontaneity.
Without being trained or motivated with treats, the cockatoo has been able to invent varied steps – including side-to-side, the foot shake, head-bang, down-shake, body roll and vogue. The bird is also able to instinctively change his moves a few seconds into each – an extremely rare phenomenon in the animal kingdom.
After scanning the internet, scientists found videos of other birds who had displayed similar behaviour and were able to chart a certain scientific pattern.
This inspired an academic study by Aniruddh D Patel, a cognitive scientist at Tufts University, USA, on the connection between musical rhythm and human evolution.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Patel explained five factors that could have led to Snowball’s moves: “There’s complex vocal learning. There’s the ability to imitate nonvocal movements. There’s the tendency to form long-term social bonds because Snowball seems to do this as a social bonding behaviour. [And] there’s the ability to learn complicated sequences of actions and being attentive to communicative movements.”
Snowball, a story
Handed over to Schulz by an elderly owner who confessed to not being able to take care of him, Snowball came with a Backstreet Boys CD and a tip that the bird loved to dance.
The 20-something parrot conquered the internet in 2007 after a Schulz posted a video of him rocking to the Backstreet Boys’ Everybody.
The bird’s iconic dance moves even won him a spot on the Tonight Show.