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Parrots Can Dance 104

Posted by kdawson
from the elephants-too dept.
juuri sends in an NPR article about the consensus created among scientists that some birds actually dance to music. "The results of this study are reported in the journal Current Biology, along with another scientific paper inspired by YouTube videos of dancing animals. Adena Schachner is a graduate student in the psychology department of Harvard University. She says she was familiar with the idea that some people had made videos of birds supposedly dancing. ... She and her colleagues eventually analyzed more than 5,000 videos. 'Imagine watching YouTube eight hours a day for a month,' she says. 'That's pretty much what we did. It was amusing for perhaps the first couple of hours.'" juuri adds, "While this makes them somewhat unique in the animal world, as only three animals are now known to dance by verifiable proofs, what struck me more was that this was the first time YouTube had helped forge a new scientific understanding. Given the explosive growth of uploading videos and people watching them, what other new understandings and popular misconceptions will be proven or disproved due to this emerging media?"

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Parrots Can Dance

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:49AM (#27787947)

    They can dance if they want to.

  • Damnit! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:52AM (#27787995) Homepage

    Another thing parrots can do that I can't! When will this humiliation end?

  • I've got a Sun Conure, which happens to be the same bird in the picture in the summary. He's only 5 months old, so he's not all out dancing, but he does seem to be starting to respond to music, as he'll start to bob his head in time for a few seconds at a time. Search youtube for kimba's song, and you can see the Sun Conure groovin to a performing beatboxer.
    • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:02PM (#27788195)

      For the love of all that is holy, do not raise that bird on disco.

      • For the love of all that is holy, do not raise that bird on disco.

        Oh hell no, the closest my girl is getting to that is a big old disc o' punk, techno, and hard rock.

      • Don't laugh, it's been done. There was a sketch on SNL back in the seventies, where a cockatoo was dancing to "Macho Man".

    • by causality (777677) on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:10PM (#27788359)

      I've got a Sun Conure, which happens to be the same bird in the picture in the summary. He's only 5 months old, so he's not all out dancing, but he does seem to be starting to respond to music, as he'll start to bob his head in time for a few seconds at a time. Search youtube for kimba's song, and you can see the Sun Conure groovin to a performing beatboxer.

      I have a cockatiel and he's about eight years old. He has a little metal band around one of his feet, I guess to prove that he was domestically bred and not poached (not sure exactly). He does one thing that I've never seen another bird do, though it's not as extreme as actually dancing. If I play certain percussive music or if I drum on my desk with my fingers, he will tap that metal band against his wooden perch to either the same rhythm or the same rhythm with little variations.

      Sometimes he'll do this as a sort of "Simon" game where I'm supposed to match his little drum-solo and then he tries to match mine. It never occurred to me that birds would properly dance, though this one does make displays etc that are a lot like dancing. Either way, they definitely do have the required sense of rhythm. I've kept birds for a number of years and I can say that you can guess but you never really know for certain just how smart they are, except maybe to say "probably more than you think".

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Bobfrankly1 (1043848)

        I've kept birds for a number of years and I can say that you can guess but you never really know for certain just how smart they are, except maybe to say "probably more than you think".

        Too true. At times, you may think you're training your bird, however, the reverse is true. How many times I've found myself acting like a spastic retard trying to get my brid to do something entertaining...*bows head in shame*

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by causality (777677)

          I've kept birds for a number of years and I can say that you can guess but you never really know for certain just how smart they are, except maybe to say "probably more than you think".

          Too true. At times, you may think you're training your bird, however, the reverse is true. How many times I've found myself acting like a spastic retard trying to get my brid to do something entertaining...*bows head in shame*

          Haha yeah I know what you mean. There's definitely something special about them. I really think that if more people kept birds, then "bird-brain" would never have been considered an insult.

          Common crows are incredible too. I believe they are the only non-primate that will not only use tools, but make and then use them. Crows have been known to find bits of wire and bend them into a "hook" and use that to get food, probably insects. If there is a nut they want to eat but cannot crack, they have been k

          • by Reziac (43301) * on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:11PM (#27789469) Homepage Journal

            You'd be amazed the degree to which dogs will plan, including practical jokes. (Speaking from 40 years as a pro dog trainer...) Anything a bright 5 year old child can conceive of, a dog can think up too. Favourites seem to be dunking the unsuspecting in any handy mud or water. I once had a Chesapeake who figured out that dumping people off rafts was a wonderful joke, resulting in lots of amusing screams... and he always waited until they were well out from shore before doing so!

            As to parrots dancing, I doubt this comes as much of a surprise to most long-time owners of such birds. They are very observant and imitative, and it doesn't take much to get them responding to whatever they hear.

            They also play nasty tricks... my sister's parrot hated her dog, and developed the following routine:

            Parrot: Jaz, COME!
            Jaz obediently comes to the parrot's cage.
            Parrot: Jaz, SIT!
            Jaz obediently sits.
            Parrot: BAD DOG!
            Jaz, familiar with his role in this comedy and apparently just indulging the parrot, wags his tail but otherwise ignores this. :)

            As to animals' notion of music... I use big plastic barrels for doghouses. They are fairly resonant. Sometimes young dogs dig like madmen in them, but after a while I realised it wasn't just random futile digging -- they'd do various specific rhythms unlike what they'd do if digging a hole. Finally it occurred to me -- they are DRUMMING. They enjoy the noise for its own sake. I've also caught dogs dragging a stick along the fence to make noise, just like small kids will do.

            What do you get if you offer a kindergarten a variety of "instruments"?? A wide variety of percussion and not much else. Dogs, having about the same congnitive facility as a 5 year old child, do much the same.

            At a guess, parrots probably are about equivalent to a 2 year old... and what do most toddlers do as soon as they're steady on their feet? attempt SOME form of "dancing" whenever they hear music.

            • As to parrots dancing, I doubt this comes as much of a surprise to most long-time owners of such birds. They are very observant and imitative, and it doesn't take much to get them responding to whatever they hear. They also play nasty tricks...

              A fellow bird owner related to me that they had an ecluctus, who knew all the family names, and received much attention from the 10 year old son. The family added a cockatoo which became the son's new favorite pet. After awhile of this, the son came home from school one day, lay down on the couch and fell asleep. The ecluctus took this opportunity to climb out of his cage, run across the floor, climb up onto the couch and onto the boy. Once there he bit him on the nose (not enough to draw blood) and started

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                That sounds about right... a fellow elsewhere related how a larger bird laid for and killed/ate a smaller one (I forget the species but of the parrot and cockatoo types) that thought to come visiting... they're devious critters, all right.

            • by modecx (130548)

              My cat, Precious, once gave a very convincing rendition of Neil Peart's solo in the song YYZ via a cardboard box and a small stack of dishes. He looked very satellited at the end, and who could blame him!

            • by shaitand (626655)

              We would let the parrot out the cage and it loved to perch on the back of a couch with a wooden frame. The cat would slowly creep inch by inch up on the bird from behind. She almost got the bird the first time this happened. After the first time the bird would give no indication that it had any clue what was going on until the cat was just about to swipe with its paw.

              Then splat, the bird would shit on the cat and even though it couldn't fly it could manage to flap to the back of another couch in the same ro

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                Oh man, that's a good one!! Took some planning on the parrot's part, for sure :D

      • That's pretty impressive. My only bird story is of the parakeet I had when I was young, who was smart enough to open the door of her cage from the inside. I had to keep it tied shut with a wire tie.

      • by ratnerstar (609443) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:01PM (#27789293) Homepage

        I have a cockatiel and he's about eight years old. He has a little metal band around one of his feet ...

        Wow, I thought dancing was impressive, but this guy has a bird that's in a metal band!

    • by hattig (47930)

      Is that Sun using SPARC or x86? Can it also predict the future?

      Makes me want to get a parrot, but I don't think it would mix well with my cat.

      • Is that Sun using SPARC or x86? Can it also predict the future?

        It can predict that if it squawks long enough and loud enough, that you're going to get it a piece of mango...

        Makes me want to get a parrot, but I don't think it would mix well with my cat.

        Depends on the cat. If your cat gets excited when it hears a bird, then probably not. However the bigger the bird you get, the less likely the cat is going to be to mess with it. Cockatoos can sever a cat's tail if they want to, and the cat is typically smart enough to realize that after a few supervised encounters.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      Ah, the Sun Conure. Beautiful and intelligent birds. Not so great at the vocal mimicry as others, but fully equipped with an ear-piercing shriek designed to travel great distances through the thick South American rain forests which serves as their equivalent of "hi". Also, quite social and friendly, so they like to say "hi" a lot when they know you're home, though they're not quite up on human social norms enough to understand the concept of sleeping in on a Saturday.

      Plus they can live for 20-40 years.

      Ha

      • They can sleep in on Saturday, provided thier cage is covered. Mine likes to sit on my shoulder, pick at my ears and hair while making cute little noises and crapping all over my favorite shirts.
        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          They can sleep in on Saturday, provided thier cage is covered.

          Well someone forgot to inform Zazu the Sun Conure of that fact. -_-

      • by BigFoot48 (726201)
        Our Sun Conure is 20 years old, and may outlive us. The one in the picture is not dancing, but rather stretching its wing. I thought this might be a habit of flightless birds (flight feathers clipped), until I saw a raven at the Grand Canyon do exactly the same thing.
  • Otters can feel love.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

      The jury's still out on Boxxy.

    • Otter Porn! (Score:2, Funny)

      by geekmux (1040042)

      Otters can feel love.

      Wait, what? I can't even find any regular porn on YouTube, but you found Otter porn?!?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Misanthrope (49269)

        Otters are the rats of the ocean. Specifically the behaviors of the males during child rearing are atrocious. An adult male will actually hold his own children hostage until the female provides food.

  • And if you look at the video you can see the shadow
    of the human dancing as well.

    I think he was visual mimicking the human.

    Clever Polly I think.

  • ...only three animals are now known to dance by verifiable proofs.

    Which animals are those? Oregon zoo has concerts close too the elephant pens. Zoo workers their claim the elephants do dance to the music. So are the 3 animals humans, parrots, and elephants, or what?

    Perhaps it was suspected that Bonobo chimps were dancing, when in fact they were merely having sex?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bobfrankly1 (1043848)

      Which animals are those? Oregon zoo has concerts close too the elephant pens. Zoo workers their claim the elephants do dance to the music. So are the 3 animals humans, parrots, and elephants, or what?

      This is where reading the full article pays off. The answer is in there lazy one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Locke2005 (849178)
        Wait... you expect people to actually RTFA? You're new here, aren't you?

        Reading The Fine Article confirms that my guess was correct -- it is humans, parrots, and elephants. However, I believe an elephant would be a poor choice of dance partner, because when that gray old lady steps on your feet, it is really gonna hurt!
        • However, I believe an elephant would be a poor choice of dance partner, because when that gray old lady steps on your feet, it is really gonna hurt!

          You just have to treat it like a mosh pit. If you go there, you have to expect to exit with an injury. Or flattened limb.

          Wait... you expect people to actually RTFA? You're new here, aren't you?

          Not new, just stubborn and grumpy. =D

        • by jc42 (318812)

          Describing it as "only three animals" is a bit misleading. The articles on the study clearly said that there were 14 species of parrot seen visibly dancing. So there must have been at least 14 animals (plus at least one elephant), not just three. In fact, there were multiple dancers in a number of the species.

          We might note that the species count was somewhat limited by what the researchers could find videos of, mostly on youtube. We don't have any idea how many other parrot species might dance. But a r

          • by lenester (625236)

            It wouldn't be too surprising if dancing were common to the group of "higher apes" that includes us humans.

            ...except that the notable absence of sound-based rhythmic coordination among other apes is exactly what led to these researchers' theory that vocal mimicry is the key: it requires the ability to match the timing of an auditory cue, which is their definition of the difference between dancing and other motive displays.

            • by Megane (129182)

              except that the notable absence of sound-based rhythmic coordination among other apes is exactly what led to these researchers' theory that vocal mimicry is the key

              All right, then, explain the elephants.

              • by lenester (625236)

                Schachner says the important thing is that, like humans – and unlike dogs or cats – parrots and elephants are both known to be vocal mimics. They can imitate sounds.

                TFA is your friend!

        • If I thought my feet were going to be stepped on, I would still pick the elephant before a woman in stilettos. [hypertextbook.com]
  • "This parrot wouldn't dance if you put 4000 volts through it!!"
  • back in 2007, when she got interested in this, a famous African Grey Parrot named Alex lived at a nearby animal cognition lab. So she and her colleagues created some new music, something no bird could have heard before, and they played it for Alex.

    "We were shocked, basically, when we put on these tracks and saw him bobbing his head what looked like to the beat," Schachner says.

    Unfortunately, Alex died soon after.

    Possibly the birds are in pain from such a terrible selection of music that they feel the urge to display shake it off gestures to show their great disgust.

  • by Scarbo27 (1150965) on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:32PM (#27788761)
    I have a Bare-Eyed Cockatoo, and he dances constantly, all the while chanting "dance dance dance." He also chants "shake shake shake your booty" while dancing. I didn't try to teach him either of these things, he taught himself. Of course I taught him the words, but not on purpose, he just picked them up from me. I take him in the shower with me about once a week, and encourage him to shake off before I take him out of the shower stall by telling him to "shake your little white booty" and singing a bit of KC and the Sunshine Band. He also likes music, especially opera, and will sing along with the women, but not the men. He speaks to me with appropriate responses on a regular basis. If one of my other birds gets off its cage he will say "get back on your cage" at it. They are much smarter and aware than most people give them credit for.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bobfrankly1 (1043848)

      I have a Bare-Eyed Cockatoo, and he dances constantly...I take him in the shower with me about once a week, and encourage him to shake off before I take him out of the shower stall by telling him to "shake your little white booty" and singing a bit of KC and the Sunshine Band.

      Bare-Eyed Cockatoos are awesome birds, but bare-assed you was hardly what I wanted an image of this early in the morning.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MRe_nl (306212)

      Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.

    • by KMnO4 (684253)
      you got video?
    • Dude, post some videos (not you in the shower though).

    • Dude, your cockatoo is gay. And you sing K C and the Sunshine Band in the shower, from which I'll let you draw your own conclusion. Not condemning it mind you, but just a heads-up.

      Living in Australia, I can pretty much assure you that most male parrots are gay, and just fake it with the babes. That's the only explanation for the plumage, the dancing and the shrieking.

  • The 1st phase of my evil psychological experiments are complete!

    Little do those fools know the expirement wasn't about birds dancing, but rather in getting someone to watch youTube for 8 hours a day for a month straight.

    The next phase I will take them to a "magical" island and tell them to hit a button every 108 minutes or the world will end and see if they do that shit...

    Muhahaha!

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:04PM (#27789343) Journal

    On behalf of the rest of the animal world:

    "only three animals are now known to dance by verifiable proofs"

    Including humans? They are animals you know.

    The assertion is made due to tests designed and carried out by humans using criteria based on human standards. In species specific behavior, humans can't possibly know when those species are dancing according to their own standards, or for that matter when they're doing something they'd consider to be other than dancing but fits the human criteria as a false positive.

    Another species might well classify most if not all of human dancing as pre-mating ritual, as do some humans. And why not both, escaping from species-specific standards? This would make mating ritual to be dance in thousands of species.

    Of course, like many recent articles, they have to make YouTude into some sort of oracle with the material qualitatively different, in order to make it more relevant. It's not. It's just easier than collecting data on your own.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      humans can't possibly know when those species are dancing according to their own standards, or for that matter when they're doing something they'd consider to be other than dancing but fits the human criteria as a false positive.

      The word "dance" is a human word, it means whatever humans want it to. Thus it doesn't matter what another species "thinks" - if we say they are dancing, then they are dancing.

      • The word "dance" is a human word, it means whatever humans want it to. Thus it doesn't matter what another species "thinks" - if we say they are dancing, then they are dancing.

        Hmmm, I think I'll use that excuse the next time someone complains that I look like disjointed weedwacker.

      • by DynaSoar (714234)

        humans can't possibly know when those species are dancing according to their own standards, or for that matter when they're doing something they'd consider to be other than dancing but fits the human criteria as a false positive.

        The word "dance" is a human word, it means whatever humans want it to. Thus it doesn't matter what another species "thinks" - if we say they are dancing, then they are dancing.

        Well the. It doesn't matter what you think. If I say something, that's what it is. Thus, I'm always right and you're always wrong. Did I get it right?

        Actually, that's the sort of arrogant attitude that's been used throughout the centuries for one group to enforce its classification and thought systems on others, by marginalizing and dehumanizing them. I'm not saying you're that way, because I don't know you. But I recognize the attitude as an echo of the many things I've read with regards to warfare and col

        • Well the. It doesn't matter what you think. If I say something, that's what it is. Thus, I'm always right and you're always wrong. Did I get it right?

          Not by a long shot.

  • I knew birds could dance from the Enchanted Tiki Room. Hadn't these "scientists" ever been to Disneyland.

  • Given the explosive growth of uploading videos and people watching them, what other new understandings and popular misconceptions will be proven or disproved due to this emerging media?

    .. they want their "emerging media" back.

  • One of the most spiritually uplifting documentaries I have ever seen, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, by Judy Irving, shows in great hilarity one of the films stars, Connor, a Red Crown Conure, dancing to the music of Mark Bitner, the main character and un-official steward of Telegraph Hill's wild parrot population. An absolute must see film, at least if you like movies that leave you feeling good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBDqwkgjW6g [youtube.com]

    http://www.wildparrotsfilm.com/ [wildparrotsfilm.com]

  • Er, if a gazillion youtube users were to film molecules exhibiting brownian motion, and if those users were to post the tiny fraction of that video that is amusing, I'll bet those molecules could be "scientifically proven" to dance too.

  • The question was asked about other possible new understandings being brought to light via new media. What about magnetic motors? Supposedly impossible according to current physics theory, does this guy's evidence (scattered over a number of utube postings) spur more research? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyAX9corOuQ&feature=channel_page [youtube.com]
  • My Canary used to love Pink Floyd music and would dance and sing like crazy together with them. Obviously birds sing because they like doing it.
  • Given the explosive growth of uploading videos and people watching them, what other new understandings and popular misconceptions will be proven or disproved due to this emerging media?

    Umm... that it's safe to launch bottle-rockets from your ass?

  • Really? Parrots dance all the time, any parrot owner could tell you this. They not only dance but they sing and I don't mean the words to the song either. They will get very excited if they like the music and make all sorts of racket to the beat.

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