Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Parrots have advanced cognitive abilities, dancing to music for fun and enjoyment. They like dancing to classical, pop, rock, and folk music. However, they hate dubstep and electronic music.
The same part of their brain that allows parrots to mimic human speech and household sounds (like doorbells) enables them to understand the rhythm and beat of music.
According to Current Biology, parrots’ brains can process music, and they prefer some genres over others. Parrots spontaneously move when their favorite songs are played.
Unlike other animals, parrots danced after watching humans or acted entirely unprompted. Also, parrots reacted positively and negatively to the playing of certain songs.
Why Parrots Dance To Music
In the above study, Dr. Patel postulates that there’s a link between:
- A parrot’s ability to dance.
- The way the brain works regarding vocal communication.
Parrots communicate by mimicking sounds they find fun. According to PLOS ONE, parrots use specific sounds to call flock members and bonded partners.
A region of their genome sequence regulates brain development. This region is similar to ours, which allowed humans to evolve with advanced cognitive abilities.
Parrots are more intelligent than most other birds (although corvids like ravens are clever) because they evolved the region in their genome sequence, enabling them to communicate through sounds.
This evolved genome sequence created a link between the part of the brain responsible for auditory sensations and physical movement.
Why Parrots Bob Their Heads To Music
The genome sequence lets parrots hear music and bob their heads to the beat in perfect synchronization.
Harvard University analyzed over 3,000 videos of elephants, dolphins, and songbirds dancing to music. They were all vocal learners, communicating through sounds and only mimicking movement.
Why Parrots Love Music
Complex cognitive abilities mean the brain can experience the world beyond primitive instincts. Humans have advanced neurological pathways and can perform actions extending beyond survival.
It’s theorized that most animals can’t dance because there was no evolutionary requirement for their brains to develop the same neurological pathways that allow humans to dance.
It would take too much unnecessary energy, so most animals’ brains lack the capacity for creativity.
Do parrots love music because they have well-developed and creative minds? Research by Dr. Patel posited 3 theories that supported the need for creativity in parrots:
Better Understanding of Bodies
Is dancing a consequence of imitating human dance moves? If so, parrots can:
- See a being with a different body structure than their own.
- Map out the motor pattern.
- Replicate the movement with their own body.
It shows that parrots have sufficient cognitive ability to associate human body parts with their own. The byproduct of creativity is the ability to recognize and relate movement to the human body.
Parrots don’t dance due to physical necessity, so they must possess creativity like humans.
Most animals exhibit creative behaviors for food and mates. Parrots dance to music unprompted and without expecting something in return. They dance because they find it creative and fun.
In this same study, a Sulphur-crested Eleanora cockatoo was analyzed. The cockatoo would only move its head up and down once its owner learned it could dance.
After a while, the parrot (named Snowball) developed 14 dance moves and 2 combinations.
There was a period when Snowball would experiment with different combinations 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 is only 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? Parrots are natural-born dancers.
Adena Schachner of Harvard University studied an African gray parrot named Alex. The parrot began bobbing his head to the beat when music was played.
The team also found that the 2 parrots (Alex and Snowball) didn’t automatically respond to music. Instead, they danced when they wanted to, indicating that parrots danced to music for fun.
Best Music To Play for Parrots
Playing any song isn’t enough to get a parrot to dance.
A study by Dr. Franck Péron on 3 parrots indicated that parrots enjoy the following genres:
- Pop music.
- Rock music.
- Folk music.
- Classical music.
The classical music relaxed the parrots and encouraged them to preen themselves.
Meanwhile, pop, folk, and rock music made them dance and sing along, which they did by squawking and saying human words they’d learned.
Music Parrots Hate
Researchers found that parrots have negative opinions about music. The genre of music they disliked the most was high-tempo electronic dance music.
Parrots Like Certain Songs
The parrots showed favorable responses to the same genres of music. However, parrots also displayed different preferences regarding the songs played.
When in the same room and hearing the same song, one or two parrots didn’t dance or sing as enthusiastically as the others. This indicated that parrots have personalized tastes.
How To Teach A Parrot To Dance
Parrots love music and have fun dancing to it. Dancing is good exercise and an effective stress reliever that benefits highly-strung pet birds.
While parrots may dance on their own, they can benefit from one-on-one lessons. Taking the time to teach a parrot to dance will yield better results.
The first song you play might not make a parrot dance. Keep experimenting with different tunes and genres until the parrot likes something.
Parrots are social animals that like to share experiences with bonded humans. Studies have found that parrots dance for longer when humans or other parrots join in.
Overcomplicated moves may confuse a parrot, just like they would a human who’s new to dancing. The parrot can eventually learn more complex movements.
Parrots respond well to vocal encouragement when dancing.
Parrots dance in short intervals and only when they’re in the right mood. Keep the lessons short so you don’t tire them out or cause them to grow bored.
Do you have a single parrot or several parrots that can’t imitate your dance moves? Then, show them videos of other parrots dancing to demonstrate what to do.
Parrots are food-focused animals. Offer them favored snacks as a reward for participation and success.
Select an area of the house where the parrot is most relaxed. Remember, dancing must be fun for parrots, so always ensure that lessons occur in a stress-free room.
Some parrots don’t respond immediately to music. At first, sing a song to the parrot. Then, play the song around the house so the parrot can hear it.
Parrots prefer songs with soft vocals. Even if you play soothing or upbeat songs, you might observe better results if it has vocals.
Parrots Don’t Dance
If a parrot refuses to dance despite your best efforts, it’s likely for these reasons:
If a parrot isn’t getting suitable nutrition, it may lack the energy to dance.
If so, ensure the parrot’s diet includes sufficient iron, magnesium, and vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) to assist with energy metabolism.
If a parrot is sick, injured, or gravid (egg-carrying), it may be unable or unwilling to move. To carry out a non-essential task, a parrot must be upbeat.
Not all parrots like the same music, while others have little interest in dancing. The parrot likely has other interests, like playing with toys, learning tricks, or vocalizing frequently.
Check for signs of distress because the parrot might not like the genre, singer, or volume level.