Scientists: Parrots Groove to the Beat

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2009 5:13 PM CDT

(Newser) – Yes, it's an actual study: Parrots can dance. Really and truly dance. A painstaking review of lab video—and YouTube—revealed that the birds have rhythm, the Boston Globe reports. Frame-by-frame analysis of birds’ motion to music shows that they bob and weave in perfect sync to a beat, a new study shows. Scientists believe the bird’s mojo might be related to its talent for mimicry, which humans share.

“When I was first starting this work, I was very skeptical,” the lead author said. “There are all kinds of ways these birds could be faking or cheating.” But the video evidence was irrefutable. In one analysis, the probability of a parrot randomly hitting the beat with his movements was calculated at 1 in 100 million. The YouTube portion of the study found that 15 species had rhythm, and 14 of them are parrots. The outlier? The Asian elephant.