Which of the following birds has a sense of rhythm?
Parrots groove in rhythm to the tempo of the music they hear because of a “link between the auditory and motor parts of the brain”, according to a theory put forward by Dr Aniruddh Patel from the Neurosciences Institute, San Diego.
To test this hypothesis, Patel’s team studied the famous Sulphur-Crested cockatoo Snowball who became an internet sensation after his YouTube video of dancing to a Backstreet boys song went viral in 2007.
He and his team were surprised to observe that the parrot’s movements were synchronised with the beat – something that until then had only been observed in humans. Not only could Snowball move to a rhythm, he could also adjust to a new one when the music changed.
Dr Patel and his team played the parrot his favourite song at various rhythms. No one in the room was allowed to respond to the music in any way, including involuntary rhythmical movements, dancing or vocalisation.
Although Snowball wasn’t always 100% in rhythm, his tempo changed accordingly with that of the song.
This led to the conclusion that Snowball had the innate ability for spontaneous beat perception and synchronisation and danced independently from cues in his environment.