May 8 2009

All They Wanna Do Is Dance

Do animals respond to music? We know that many shelters use soothing music to calm animals, and dogs left alone in the house seem less lonely with the radio on. But it seems that birds–those music makers of the animal world–are more in tune than any other pet.

Researcher Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, has been studying whether birds actually dance. Parrots are well known for bobbing their heads in response to a variety of stimuli; my own eclectus parrot, Linus, bobbed eagerly when presented with pumpkin seeds, a favorite treat. And he often bobbed up and down when music played. But do parrots really keep to the beat?

Linus, an eclectus parrot

Linus, an eclectus parrot

¬†Patel concludes that they do, and he’s published his findings in the April 2009 issue of the journal Current Biology. Adena Schachner of Harvard University agrees that animals that mimic sounds internalize the beat of music and dance to it. Read more about their research in this NPR report by Nell Greenfieldboyce. And in the meantime, watch Snowball the cockatoo boogie down with the Backstreet Boys. Snowball lives at the Bird Lovers Only Rescue¬†in Schererville, Indiana.

posted by Claire M. Caterer

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