Bird Jammin'

by wag.mado@evpl on Monday, June 1 2009, 3:08pm. Viewed 1,087 times.

SnowballThe Reference Department at Central Library often gets questions regarding animal behavior. One recent question was "Can a giraffe lick its ear with its tongue?" On any given day, we have to be prepared for those perplexing questions that need to be answered. One of you out there may be wondering if animals can dance. Well, read on and see for yourself.

According to a new study from the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla California, humans are not the only ones who have a sense of rhythm. Some birds, dolphins, elephants and seals might be able to move to a beat and actually dance. One of the subjects studied by scientist Aniruddh Patel and his colleagues was a cockatoo named Snowball. Snowball actually lives in Indiana at Bird Lovers Only Rescue. He appears to prefer rock music - especially The Backstreet Boys. You may have seen Snowball on YouTube. He not only moves his head, but his feet and other body parts to the beat of music.

In another study at Harvard University, researcher Adena Schachner and colleagues studied thousands of dancing animals on YouTube and concluded that several species of parrots and elephants have the ability to perform synchronized movements in accordance with various musical beats.

Snowball was one of the favorites in both studies. And after viewing his videos, you will know why.

Out of these studies came a theory that the ability to dance is related to a propensity for mimicking sounds vocally - that somehow the two are interconnected. What about elephants? Well, they have been known to mimic sounds in their environment also.

So, there's your answer - although additional studies are needed to prove the above theory.

Oh, and by the way - the answer to the giraffe question is yes. The length of a giraffe tongue is about 18-20 inches!

Read more about animal behavior by checking out these books. Or, contact us today with one of your own questions.

Comments (2)

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gawell@evpl wrote
on Tuesday, June 2 2009, 7:28pm

"Can a giraffe lick its ear with its tongue?"

Answer: Yes.

Just because they can, may not mean they do.

So, I wonder. Do giraffes lick their ears with their tongues?

Giraffes do have the largest heart of any land animal.

"Many animals when kept in captivity, such as in zoos, display abnormal behaviours. Such unnatural behaviours are known as stereotypic behaviours.[25] In particular, giraffes show distinct patterns of stereotypic behaviours when removed from their natural environment. Due to a subconscious response to suckle milk from their mother, something which many human-reared giraffes and other captive animals do not experience, giraffes resort instead to excessive tongue use on inanimate objects." wiki

Giraffes only sleep about 20 minutes a day and only with a lookout on duty; so, there does seem like plenty of time for various activities.

PotionsMaster@evpl wrote
on Thursday, June 4 2009, 9:02am

I wonder if some bird species are more prone to being more musically in-tune than others...I have a red lory at home and he has two left feet.  He will start to dance to some song or other, and then about four bars into it, he'll get so excited, he just loses the rhythm completely and bob his head at a ridiculously fast rate.  Then he will whistle a song that is commonly played at basball games and add his own little quirks to it.  Perhaps is has to do with how well a bird's mimicking capacity is and if they are able to string different components together easily or not.  Stitch is a great at mimicking certain things, but doesn't willingly put two and two together.  Hmmm...