Parrots have complex cognitive abilities, meaning they dance to music for fun.
Parrots enjoy dancing to classical, pop, rock, and folk music, while dubstep and other electronic music aren’t usually to their liking.
The same part of their brain that allows parrots to mimic speech and sounds allows them to understand music, rhythms, and beats.
Parrots have an innate ability to react to music, so let them pick their favorite genres and tunes.
Do Parrots Understand Music?
According to Current Biology, parrots enjoy a beat and can process hearing music. Professor Aniruddh Patel discovered that parrots could spontaneously move to the music.
Dogs, cats, monkeys, chickens, and many other animals can be taught to dance. However, this isn’t something they can do on their own, so trainers must teach them certain behaviors with a reward system in place. Whereas parrots can dance unprompted or by watching humans dance.
Along with other findings, this showed that parrots could tell this music apart from other sounds. More importantly, they felt and reacted specifically to it.
Researchers explored many different tests to prove the theory that parrots understand music. The most likely explanation is connected to parrots’ ability to mimic sounds.
Why Do Parrots Dance to Music?
In the above study, Dr. Patel postulates that there is a link between:
- An animal’s ability to dance.
- The way their brain works in regards to vocal communication.
Parrots communicate by mimicking sounds they find pleasant. According to PLOS ONE, that even allows parrots to use sounds to call out to each other.
A region of their genome sequence regulates brain development. This region is highly similar to our own, which is what allowed humans to evolve with advanced cognitive abilities, such as:
- Spatial awareness
Parrots are smarter than other birds because they evolved the region in their genome sequence, enabling them to communicate through sounds. This evolved genome sequence created a link between the:
- Area of the brain in charge of auditory sensations
- One in charge of the movement
Why Do Parrots Bob Their Heads To Music?
The genome sequence link lets parrots hear music and bob their heads to the beat in perfect synchronization. It’s a natural response that parrots have. Other birds lack it because they either:
- Lack the ability to mimic
- Their ability isn’t well developed
A team at Harvard University analyzed over 3,000 videos of different animals (elephants, dolphins, and songbirds) dancing to music. What did all of these animals have in common?
- They were all vocal learners, mostly communicating through sounds
- They could mimic movements
Why Do Parrots Love Music?
Complex cognitive abilities mean that the brain can experience the world beyond the limitations of primitive instincts. Humans have intricate neurological pathways and can do things for more than survival.
It’s theorized that most animals can’t dance because there wasn’t any evolutionary pressure for their brains to develop the same neurological pathways that allow us to dance.
It would take too much unnecessary energy to evolve a more sophisticated brain. So, most animals’ brains lack the capacity for creativity.
Do parrots love music because they have developed creative brains? In the research done by Dr. Patel, he posited three theories in favor of parrot creativity:
Better Understanding of Bodies
Is parrot dancing a consequence of imitating human dance moves? If so, parrots have the ability to:
- See a being with a different body structure than their own
- Map out the motor pattern
- Replicate it in their own body
It shows that parrots have enough cognitive ability to associate human body parts with their own. The ability to recognize and relate foreign objects to your body is a byproduct of creativity.
Another theory was based on the fact that parrots don’t dance for an immediate physical necessity. So, they must possess creativity that resembles humans.
Most animals exhibit creative behaviors to get food or a mate. Parrots dance to music unprompted and without expecting something in return. This led Dr. Patel to conclude that parrots dance because they’re creative creatures.
In this same study, a Sulphur-crested Eleanora cockatoo was analyzed. The bird would only move its head up and down when its owners learned it could dance.
After a while, the parrot (named Snowball) developed 14 dance moves and two combinations. There was a period when Snowball would experiment with different sets of moves, so it would focus less on being synchronized and more on what it could do with its body.
Once it got over its experimental phase, Snowball could keep rhythm. This form of self-expression and experimentation could only be possible in creative animals.
Is Dancing in a Parrot’s Nature?
Most parrots learn to dance by watching their owners. Can parrots that have never seen someone dance bob their heads to the sound of music? As it turns out, parrots are natural-born dancers.
Adena Schachner of Harvard University studied an African grey parrot named Alex. The parrot began bobbing his head to the beat when presented with music.
During the study, the team also found that the two parrots in the experiment (Alex and Snowball) didn’t automatically respond to music. Instead, they danced only when they wanted to, indicating that parrots danced to music for entertainment.
Best Music to Play for Parrots
Playing any song won’t be enough to get a parrot to dance. A study done by Dr. Franck Péron with three parrots indicated that parrots enjoy:
- Pop music
- Rock music
- Folk music
- Classical music
The classical music relaxed the parrots and encouraged them to clean themselves.
Meanwhile, pop, folk, and rock music made them dance and sing along, which they did by squawking and saying human words.
What Music Do Parrots Hate?
Researchers learned that parrots have negative opinions about music. The one genre of music they hated the most was high-tempo electronic dance music.
Do Parrots Like Certain Songs?
The parrots showed the same favorable response to the same genres of music. However, they also displayed different preferences regarding the songs played.
When in the same room, hearing the same song, one or two parrots would not dance or sing as enthusiastically as the others. This indicated that parrots have individual tastes in music.
How to Teach a Parrot to Dance
While parrots may dance on their own, they can always benefit from lessons. Taking the time to teach your parrot how to dance will yield great results for its overall happiness.
Parrots have preferences in music. So, the first song you play might not be the one to make your parrot dance. Keep experimenting until your parrot finds one it likes.
Parrots are very social, and they like to share experiences with humans. Studies have found that parrots dance for longer when humans or other parrots join them.
Overcomplicated moves might confuse your parrot, just like they would a human who’s new to dancing. The parrot can eventually figure out more complex moves on its own later on.
Parrots respond well to vocal encouragement when dancing.
Parrots dance in short intervals and only when they want to. Keep the lessons short, so you don’t tire out your pet or make it hate them.
Do you have a single parrot or a group of parrots that can’t seem to imitate your moves? Then, show them videos of other parrots dancing because this might allow them to understand what to do.
Offer your parrot food as a reward for success. Is there a better way to get a pet to do something?
Select an area of the house where the parrot is most relaxed. Remember that dancing is meant to be fun for parrots. Make sure the lessons take place in a stress-free zone.
Some parrots don’t take to music right away. At first, you should sing a song or two to your parrot, stretched out over a few days.
Then, play the songs around the house. Play them close enough that the parrot can hear but far enough away that the music won’t distress the parrot.
Parrots prefer songs with soft vocals in them. Even if you play soothing or upbeat songs (the kinds parrots usually prefer), you might have more luck if the song has vocals.
Why Aren’t My Parrots Dancing?
If your parrot doesn’t dance despite your best efforts, it’s likely for these reasons:
If the parrot isn’t getting proper nutrition, it might not have the energy to dance.
If your parrot is injured or gravid, it might not be able to move the way it would like to.
Not All Birds Are The Same
Not all parrots like the same music, while others have no interest in dancing.
Check for signs of distress. If you’re playing classical music and the parrot isn’t asking you to turn it off, it might still feel too uncomfortable to dance.
As science has proven, parrots like to dance to music. Just be sure to learn what type of music they like.