4 Reasons Why Parrots Dance

  • Time to read: 9 min.

Why parrots dance is a question that people often ask. Of course, it is not usual to see animals dancing and repeating what humans do. Fortunately, scientists explain why this species of bird can dance. 

According to Dr. Annirudd Patel, parrots dance because they have a link between the auditory and motor parts of their brain. Parrots also respond to music because they have vocal stimulants. They also mimic people’s behavior, which means they can copy how humans bop their heads. 

Why Parrots Dance

Parrots are known for their uncanny ability to dance. These birds are like humans whenever they hear a nice beat. You can see them dance to the rhythm, just like how humans dance when they hear a beat. 

Do Parrots Like Dancing?

Dr. Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego has a theory for why parrots dance when they hear music. According to him, the reason parrots respond to music is that there is a “link between the auditory and motor parts of the brain.”

To test his hypothesis, Patel and his team studied Snowball, a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo that went viral in 2007. The cockatoo became popular in a YouTube video dancing to a song by Backstreet boys. 

Dr. Patel’s team was surprised when he observed that the cockatoo’s movements synchronized with the rhythm. In addition, the parrot was able to adjust to a new beat when the music changed. 

In another study, Dr. Patel and his team played the parrot’s favorite song at different rhythms. Apart from the parrot, no one from the team was allowed to respond to the music in any way. 

This study aimed to study whether parrots dance because they mimic the people around them. As a result, they found out that parrots have the innate ability for beat perception and synchronization. Meaning they can independently dance when they hear cues in their environment. (source)

4 Reasons Why Parrots Dance

Parrots do not only mimic speech, but they also love music. As mentioned, parrots can dance to various beats without you having to train them. The reason is that these animals have complex cognitive abilities that allow them to dance for fun. 

Parrots usually prefer pop, classical, folk, and rock music. That said, here are four reasons why parrots dance:

1. Parrots Can React To Music

As mentioned, Dr. Patel noted a link between the auditory and motor parts of a parrot’s brain. This link allows them to react to music through dancing. So, a parrot’s ability to dance is innate and not triggered by humans. 

However, you can also teach your parrot how to dance. 

Parrots can also pick up the beats of a song. Meaning you can play songs with different beats one after the other, and parrots can still adjust to those beats. 

2. Parrots Have Vocal Communications Skills

Parrots have complex brains that allow them to respond to vocal stimulants. Such is also the reason why they can mimic human speech. Additionally, scientists speculate that a parrot’s way of responding to vocal stimulants is the reason why they dance when they hear music. 

3. It’s Mating Season

Another reason why parrots dance is they are looking for a mate. Apart from their bright plumage, parrots use their fancy moves to woo their mate. If two male parrots are competing for a mate, the female parrot will choose the one with:

  • fancier moves
  • more vibrant colors
  • better voice
  • fancier crest(if crested)(source)

4. Mimicry

Parrots are intelligent. For this reason, they can mimic their owner’s behavior when they hear music. For instance, if your parrot sees you responding to music by doing a little dance, they will copy that behavior the next time they hear music. (source)

Do Parrots Dance When They Are Happy?

Do Parrots Dance When They Are Happy?

Parrots have a taste in music. Some of them prefer pop, while others enjoy classical songs. But one thing in common is that these creatures do not like to dance to music with loud beats.

Similar to humans, parrots have a gene called alpha-synuclein. This gene segregates dopamine, a hormone that makes you happy, which is also why parrots dance. 

The alpha-synuclein activates whenever parrots hear a beautiful melody. Additionally, parrots dance as soon as they hear music. That said, we can confirm that parrots dance when they are happy. 

Additionally, music and dance are a parrot’s way of interacting with humans. Pet parrots dance because they know their owners understand what they are doing. Therefore, parrots dance because they have fun and not because they are given a reward for it. (source)

Do Parrots Dance To Music In Real Life?

Parrots have complex cognitive abilities to dance. In fact, they can dance to music even if you did not train them. 

Moreover, parrots have bigger brains compared to other birds. A region in their genome sequence also evolved, which gave them the ability to communicate through sounds and enjoy music. 

Why Do Parrots Love Music?

Humans have a cognitive brain that lets us do things more than mere survival. Meaning we can do things and feel the enjoyment of doing them. 

Like humans, parrots have complex cognitive abilities that allow them to experience the world more than the limitations of primitive instincts. Such is the reason why parrots dance and why they love music. 

To prove this claim. Dr. Adena Schachner and her team at Harvard University studied Alex, an African Grey parrot. 

When exposed to music, the parrot started bopping its head in a way that synchronized with the beat. It is worth noting that the parrot never learned this behavior from any training or observation on humans. 

In addition, Dr. Schachner’s team observed that the parrot in the experiment did not respond to music instantly. Instead, they only danced when they wanted to. This behavior indicated that parrots dance to music because they enjoy it. (source)

Teaching A Parrot How To Dance

Since parrots have an innate ability to dance, it will be easy for you to teach them complex dance steps. 

According to animal trainer Barbara Heidenreich, animal training is a form of communication that follows a systematic approach. The better a trainer is at training an animal, the better they communicate and earn desired consequences. 

That said, being sensitive to body language and making your parrot feel comfortable are the crucial steps to teaching your bird how to dance.

As mentioned, complex cognitive abilities are the reason why parrots dance. For this reason, you can easily teach them how to dance. 

1. Begin With The Basics

The first thing you need to do when training parrots is to make them feel comfortable and relaxed. Next, you need to identify the bird’s potential reinforcers. These reinforcers are either an item or something that your parrot needs to acquire. That includes their preferred toys, food, or physical affection. 

2. Pick A Song

Choosing the right music is vital for training a parrot. The reason is that it will be easier for your pet to associate itself with the beat and enjoy it more quickly. Remember that parrots have their musical preference, so you have to note the song they like and dislike. 

3. Know When To Train

The best time to train your parrot is when they are most active. A sign that your parrots want attention is when they are noisy, which is the best time to start training them. 

It is essential to note that parrots have a short attention span. So, make sure that you only train your pet for short periods and make it fun for it.  

4 . Teach Your Parrot How To Bop Their Heads

In humans, head bobbing is considered a dance step. Such is the easiest dance that you can teach your parrot. 

Put your bird on the top of its cage or somewhere comfortable for them. Remember that comfort and enjoyment are other reasons why parrots dance. 

Once your parrot is paying attention, please turn on the music you introduced and nod your head enthusiastically. This step will catch the bird’s attention. 

Once it looks at you, encourage it to mimic the action by calling its name and nodding your head. If it does, give it a treat as a reward. 

After teaching your parrot the basics, you can do more complex steps like wing stretch and the dip. 

Wing StretchIt would be best if you made it easy for your parrot to understand you since there are differences in the bird’s anatomy and its trainer. Tuck your hands into your underarms to teach the wing step as if you are doing a chicken dance. While doing the step, give your parrot vocal commands like “stretch your wings.”
The DipThe dip is a step where your parrot dips its head low and raises it again. To teach your parrot this step, do the chicken dance pose and dip your head while giving them a vocal command. Repeat the step until your parrot recognizes and mimics what you are doing. (source)

Do Parrots Actually Enjoy Music?

As odd as it may sound, parrots have a natural attraction to music. You can observe this behavior if you have a pet parrot and play a song around them. 

But in a recent study, scientists revealed that parrots are relatively picky in music. 

The Study

Researchers of the Applied Animal Behavior Science monitored how two African Grey parrots reacted to certain types of music. 

As a result of observing the parrots for weeks, the team found out that one of the birds preferred modern pop-rock, while the other enjoyed a soft “middle of the road” tune. 

Moreover, some scientists believe that parrots have their personal preference over music. True enough, the test done by the researchers above solidified this theory. This musical taste is also one of the reasons why parrots dance. 

According to Dr. Franck Peron of the University of Lincoln, the said study said that the parrots seemed to dislike dance and techno music. 

Instead of dancing or bopping their heads to the said music genre, the parrots would make distressing noises, such as screaming and squawking. However, they went right back to their usual active selves as soon as the music stopped. 

Parrots Do Not Like Irregular Rhythms

On the other hand, the parrots enjoyed classical music and pop, such as Joan Baez and UB40. It is not clear why parrots strongly dislike techno and dance music. But researchers hypothesized that it could be related to how their brain interprets music. 

The fast-moving rhythms and irregular patterns could be excessive for parrots, prompting them to prefer softer melodies. (source)

Why Do Parrots Mimic?

There is no denying that parrots are intelligent creatures. They are also highly social and have a long lifespan. In the wild, parrots learn the sounds and calls made by their flocks and family. 

For instance, parent parrots give their chicks names, and all parrots within the flock reproduce these calls. This way, the parrots within a flock can communicate with each other. 

For this reason, domestically-bred parrots mimicking their owners is something that they naturally do. They see their owners and trainers as their family, so they learn and repeat these people’s sounds. 

Such is also why parrots dance when you give them vocal cues. 

In addition, parrots are social animals. For this reason, they want to fit in with the rest of their environment. So, around humans, parrots imitate human words to socialize with them.

Parrots Are Not The Only Birds That Mimic

Apart from parrots, other species of birds can copy the sounds that they hear from humans. For instance, mynah birds, crows, ravens, and hummingbirds can replicate some of the sounds that they hear from their environment. But among all birds, parrots are the best at imitating human speech.

Parrots can learn hundreds of words and understand what some of them mean. (source)

A Takeaway On Why Parrots Dance

Parrots are intelligent creatures. For this reason, they can mimic the words that humans say and the sound that they do. Parrots also have a nerve link between their brain’s auditory and motor parts. It is the reason why parrots dance as soon as they hear music. 

However, it is essential to note that parrots can choose music. Meaning they will not dance to music that they do not like. If your parrot is screaming or making distressed sounds, they do not like the song you are playing. 

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Sources

  1. R. Joanne Jao Keehn, John R. Iversen, Irena Schulz, Aniruddh D. Patel. “Spontaneity And Diversity Of Movement To Music Are Not Uniquely Human.” Current Biology, 2019; 29 (13): R621 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.035
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