This Cockatoo Can Shake His Tail Feathers Irena Schulz filmed her sulphur-crested cockatoo, Snowball, dancing to the Backstreet Boys. It was a YouTube sensation. A couple of neuroscientists, including John Iversen of the Neurosciences Institute, saw the video and decided to look into it.

This Cockatoo Can Shake His Tail Feathers

This Cockatoo Can Shake His Tail Feathers

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Irena Schulz filmed her sulphur-crested cockatoo, Snowball, dancing to the Backstreet Boys. It was a YouTube sensation. A couple of neuroscientists, including John Iversen of the Neurosciences Institute, saw the video and decided to look into it.

VIDEO: See Snowball Groove

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IRA FLATOW, host:

Flora Lichtman is here with our Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: What have you got for us today?

LICHTMAN: Well, we have some comic relief after that hour…

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: …of swine flu. The - it's a couple of bird videos. And the first one is a dancing cockatoo.

FLATOW: Now, we've seen that all over YouTube, right?

LICHTMAN: All right. We're not - okay, we're not the first one to have this video footage. It was a viral YouTube sensation.

FLATOW: But…

LICHTMAN: But the funny part is that of the millions of viewers, there were two - a couple of neuroscientists out in California. And they said to themselves - they specialize in music - and said, you know, we should really look into this. So they called up the owner, and she said, okay. If you want to do an experiment with my bird, Snowball, go for it. And that's how it all began.

FLATOW: So they - they actually went to Snowball with some music and played different beats of music?

LICHTMAN: So they played - Snowball's favorite song, apparently, is by the Backstreet Boys. Just, Snowball loves to get down to the Backstreet Boys. So they played the Backstreet Boys to Snowball and found, after some analysis of the video, that Snowball really was hitting the beat. But the kind of more amazing thing is that they changed the tempo on the song and Snowball adjusted his rhythm, so he's like a better dancer than probably most people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Wow. And we could see this at - if you go to our Web site, it's sciencefriday.com, we have the new video of Snowball dancing to the different beats and the interviews with the scientists.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. And they explained - I mean, there is some sort of significance here.

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: It's not just cute. It also raises new questions about, you know, the brain circuitry required for music. It was thought to be kind of a human thing. But this suggests that, you know, maybe not.

FLATOW: And any other video? We have a listener video.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. We have a great - this week, we have a great listener-submitted video. Thanks to Dakin Henderson, who is a student who works out in the field, studying owls out in Colorado. And he - while he was out there, he took some video footage of, he and his colleagues, capturing these owls from the tree. And it really is spectacular.

FLATOW: Wow. So we've got two birds for the price of one…

LICHTMAN: That's right.

FLATOW: …today. And one of the - and they just showed then the owls being captured…

LICHTMAN: At night. So you have to - it requires this super long pole and, you know, a lot of patience, I think, and a net.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: And it's incredible. I mean, I never would've imagined how you would do research on these birds…

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: …until I saw this video. So it was interesting.

FLATOW: That's terrific. And that's all of this - this week's Video Picks of the Week.

LICHTMAN: Yeah.

FLATOW: Our bird brains are at sciencefriday.com. Thank you, Flora.

LICHTMAN: Thanks.

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