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Cockatoos and dance: stories and studies

Cockatoos and dance: stories and studies

There is an example of Cockatoo which is making a lot of talk about itself. It is a budgie who loves to dance and who today, in the days of social networks, it took little to become popular thanks to the video recordings of his performances. So here is the right opportunity to talk about cockatoos and dance, and our dear friend Snowball.

Cockatoo: characteristics

Before going to meet our star, let's begin to understand what race is his. He belongs to the cockatoo family, order Psittaciformes. The name derives from the Malay and the meaning is not the clearest because in fact we can literally translate it as a compound form of kaka, “parrot”, + tuwah, or “older sister”.

We are faced with a rather normal parrot, with its curved beak and the foot with two toes behind and two more in front but which is recognized by its very straight crest on the head and, for example, by the lack of compound feathers. To meet a specimen of Cockatoo in its natural environment we must go to Australia where eleven of the twenty-one species of this animal live, the others are found in Indonesia, in New Guinea and on other islands of the South Pacific. Three species are found in both New Guinea than in Australia.

Cockatoo and Music: Snowball

There is a lot of talk about parrots and music thanks to a specimen of yellow-tufted cockatoo called Snowball, a wild bird who today has established himself as one of the most famous dancers on the web. He dances, to the rhythm, moves with harmony and it seems that he also enjoys it. There is no shortage of online videos that testify to his talent and you can verify yourself with a few clicks.

In addition toViral effect on the web, this ability has also given rise to a study published on Current Biology and conducted by experts fromUniversity of Tufts which broadened the scope of research, showing that Snowball and his fellows are not only able to dance but have a real ability to invent. They are creative, so they do not purely imitate movements but invent them, even creating choreographies from scratch, of their own accord. There are humans who couldn't do it, cockatoos, some cockatoos, yes.

Snowball grew up in an Indiana shrine in the United States and it is already since 2007 that he is famous, he has become one since he danced to the notes of "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys and was filmed and launched on social media. He was even a guest on the David Letterman Show and starred in a commercial for Taco Bell.

Cockatoos and music: studies

Snowball is not just a freak phenomenon, one of the many animals that have gone viral on the web for its strange movements, but it is a parrot that is helping us to learn more about its species. On the videos of this cockatoo very rigorous analyzes were carried out which allowed to identify well 1 dance steps that the cockatoo would have created all by itself by combining movements of the head, legs, beak and crest. It certainly started from a few steps that its owner, Irena Schulz, he suggested but then went on alone and this is not at all obvious.

What does this mean for research? That the cognitive abilities of this species are highly evolved and complex. Animals like Snowball in fact, unlike others, they do not learn to obtain a reward but because they want to learn. It comes naturally to them. They look for rhythm and movements, without thinking about the applause or the likes they will receive.

To better understand Snowball's behavior, several soundtracks were used in order to leave him free to invent and react: "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen, for example, or "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper. In all cases, in the videos, you can see ad hoc choreographies that our friend has invented for the occasion.

In the world we find several birds that make similar movements but they are moves with a specific purpose. To woo, above all. Snowball no, he does not want to woo anyone but express himself and his creativity with stubborn insistence and this is his secret.

Cockatoos and men

What to dance with creativity, personalizing the movements, is a talent that brings cockatoos closer to humans, at least to some, but that's not all. These birds also have an excellent ability to mimic movement and, like humans, wish to form long-term social bonds.

Cockatoo: protected species

Today, but certainly not because of these music videos, all cockatoo species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (also known as CITES), which makes it illegal to import, export and trade all wild-caught parrots and cockatoos.
There are some species that are considered endangered, while others are defined as "vulnerable" for now. Here are those at risk:

  • Cacatua goffiniana - Goffin's cockatoo
  • Cacatua haematuropygia - red undertail cockatoo
  • Cacatua moluccensis - Moluccan cockatoo
  • Cacatua sulphurea - yellow-crested cockatoo
  • Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata - citrine-crested cockatoo
  • Probosciger aterrimus - palm cockatoo.


Video: Scientists discover Snowball the cockatoo has 14 distinct dance moves (May 2021).