Animals Can Rock, Too. Well, At Least They Have Rhythm

Both of my faithful bull terriers react to music. Adele puts both of them to sleep while Schmooze, the older of the two, will spring to her feet at the sound of anything industrial (Nine Inch Nails seems to be a favourite) while Squirt will chase her tail anytime she hears Oasis. Go figure.

Neither one of them seems to have much rhythm–they’re terrible dancers, too–but other animals do like it when you drop a beat. Quanta Magazine explores this notion.

There are moments when we witness an animal do something so far outside its presumed repertoire of behavior — something so uncannily human — that we can never look at that animal, or ourselves, the same way again. For Irena Schulz, one of those moments happened on an otherwise ordinary day in August, 2007. Schulz lived in Schererville, Ind., where she managed a sanctuary for abandoned parrots. A man named Dane Spudic came by with a young male Eleonora cockatoo called Snowball — a striking creature with milk-white plumage and a sweep of lemon feathers on his nape that fanned into a mohawk when he was excited. Spudic explained that his family could no longer give the increasingly cantankerous Snowball the attention and care he needed.

Oh, and by the way, he added, this bird is an incredible dancer. You should see what he can do. Spudic left behind a burned CD of Snowball’s favorite music.

Schulz was someone who already had a deep appreciation for the intelligence and myriad talents of birds. She had even seen some parrots sway and bob to music. But Spudic’s claims seemed a bit hyperbolic. “We were humoring him, saying, ‘Sure, sure,’” Schulz recalls. Later that evening, she and her husband popped Spudic’s CD into the computer in their living room. Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by The Backstreet Boys started playing. Immediately, Snowball, who was perched on Schulz’s arm, began kicking up his feet and bouncing his head with great zeal — and precision. His movements were synced with the beat. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Schulz said. “This bird was like a choreographed phenomenon. He wasn’t just picking up his leg and gingerly putting it down. He was literally foot stomping. I thought, ‘My god — the bird is enjoying this.’”

Read on.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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