Parrots not only mimic speech patterns and have conversations, but they also have a love of music. Perhaps you’ve seen videos of parrots dancing to the beat of catchy songs. Many people believe that this is a trained behavior and that parrots can’t appreciate music, but the truth is more interesting.
Parrots can dance to music. Rather than acting on training or primal instinct, parrots show enough intelligence to dance for fun. That’s because they have such complex cognitive abilities. The same part of their brain that allows them to mimic sound helps them understand music, allowing them to detect rhythm and move to a beat.
Parrots typically prefer classical, pop, rock, and folk music. Dubstep and other electronic music aren’t usually to their taste. That’s because parrots have an innate ability to react to music, letting them pick favorites. With that said, most pet parrots learn dance moves by mimicking their owner. So, you can teach your parrot how to dance.
Do Parrots Understand Music?
Parrots not only enjoy a good beat, but they can even process hearing music, according to a study published in Current Biology. Professor Aniruddh Patel discovered that parrots could spontaneously move to the music. In other words, they can dance. However, the key here is the word “spontaneous.”
Dogs, cats, monkeys, chickens, and many other animals can be taught to “dance.” However, this isn’t something they can do on their own. Trainers have to teach them certain behaviors with a reward system in place for them to do this. Parrots, on the other hand, can dance:
- By seeing other parrots and humans dancing
Along with other findings, this showed that parrots could tell this music apart from other sounds. Even more importantly, they felt and reacted very specifically to it. Just like humans, they decided to dance.
Researchers explored many different tests to help prove the theory that parrots understand music. The leading explanation, of course, is tied to parrots’ outstanding 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. It’s just like how humans use names.
This is possible because of a region of their genome sequence, which regulates brain development. This region is highly similar to our own. It’s what allowed us to evolve with higher cognitive abilities, such as:
- Spatial awareness
Parrots have bigger brains than other birds. They evolved the region in their genome sequence. That granted them the ability 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?
That link is what allows parrots to 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 an ability to mimic
- Their ability isn’t well developed
This theory was further supported by a study conducted by a team at Harvard University. They 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 all had the ability to mimic movement
Why Do Parrots Love Music?
Having complex cognitive abilities means one main thing: the brain can experience the world beyond the limitations of primitive instincts. Humans, who have intricate neurological pathways, can do things for more than just survival. We do things because we enjoy them.
It’s theorized that most animals can’t dance for one simple reason. 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. As such, most animals’ brains don’t have the capacity for creativity.
This then begs the question: Do parrots love music because they have developed creative brains? In the research done by Dr. Patel, he posited 3 theories in favor of parrot creativity:
Better Understanding Of Bodies
Is parrot dancing a consequence of imitating human dance moves? Then it means that parrots possess the ability to:
- See a being with a completely different body structure than theirs
- Map out the motor pattern
- Replicate it in their own body
This is nothing short of an incredible feat. 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 own body is seen as a byproduct of creativity.
Another theory was based on the fact that parrots do not dance for an immediate physical necessity. As such, they must possess creativity that resembles that of a human.
Most animals who exhibit creative behavior do so to get something, like food or a mate. Parrots, however, dance to music unprompted. They also do so without expecting something in return. This led Dr. Patel and his team to believe parrots dance due to being 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 first learned it could dance.
After a while, the parrot (named Snowball) developed a series of 14 dance moves and 2 combinations. There was a period of time when Snowball would experiment with different sets of moves. 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 was able to keep rhythm. This form of self-expression and experimentation could only be possible in creative animals.
Is Dancing in a Parrot’s Nature?
Most pet parrots learn to dance by watching their owners. However, is it possible for a parrot that’s never seen someone dance to bob their heads to the sound of music? As it turns out, parrots are natural-born dancers.
Adena Schachner and her team at Harvard University studied an African grey parrot named Alex. When presented with music, the parrot began bobbing his head to the beat. It had never learned this behavior from anyone else.
During the study, the team also found that the two parrots in the experiment (Alex and Snowball) did not have an automatic response to music. Instead, they danced only when they wanted to. This indicated that parrots danced to music for the sake of entertainment.
Best Music to Play for Parrots
Playing just any song won’t be enough to get a parrot to dance. A study done by Dr. Franck Péron with 3 parrots indicated that parrots enjoy:
- Pop music
- Rock music
- Folk music
- Classical music
The classical music seemed to relax the birds and encouraged them to clean themselves. Meanwhile, the pop, folk, and rock music made them dance and sing along. They did this both by squawking and saying human words.
What Music Do Parrots Hate?
In this same study, researchers learned parrots have negative opinions about music too. The one genre of music they hated the most is high-tempo electronic dance music. This made them squawk in distress.
Do Parrots Like Certain Songs?
The parrots showed the same favorable response to the same genres of music. However, they also displayed different preferences when it came to the songs played.
When in the same room, hearing the same song, one or two of the 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
Parrots naturally love music and have a lot of fun dancing to it. Dancing is a great form of exercise and is an effective stress-reliever.
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.
Play Different Kinds Of Music
Parrots have their own taste in music. As such, the first song you play might not be the one to make your parrot dance. Keep experimenting until your parrot finds one it likes.
Dance With Your Parrot
Parrots are very social, and they like to share experiences with humans. Studies have found that parrots actually dance longer when humans or other parrots join in.
Keep The Move Simple
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.
Encourage Your Parrot
Parrots respond really well to vocal encouragement when dancing.
Keep The Lessons Short
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 the lessons.
Show Your Parrot Videos
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. This might allow them to better understand what they are supposed to do. After all, they have their own species as reference.
Use A Positive Reward System
Be sure to offer your parrot food as a reward when they succeed. What better way is there to get a pet to do what you want?
Make Sure They Are Comfortable
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.
Ease Your Parrot Into It
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.
Play The Right Kind Of Music
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 Doesn’t My Bird Dance?
If your parrot won’t dance despite your best efforts, then don’t worry. You can check a few elements to make sure everything’s okay:
Make Sure Your Parrot Is Energized
If the parrot isn’t getting proper nutrition, it might not have the energy to dance.
Check For Physical Limitations
If your parrot is injured or pregnant, it might not be able to move the way it would like to.
Accept That Not All Birds Are The Same
Not all humans like the same music. In the same way, not all parrots like the same music or even want to dance to it. Some parrots just have no interest in dancing at all.
Make Sure The Music Isn’t Distressing Them
Watch for any signs of distress in your parrot. That’s true even if you are playing classical music and the parrot isn’t screaming at the top of its lungs, begging you to turn the music off. It might still feel too uncomfortable to dance.
Parrots can dance to music. As science has proven, they’re even happy to do so. Just make sure to learn what music they like and let them have a good time. By doing so, you can both enjoy a dance party together.