Avian Expert Articles

Why Parrots Dance & The Music Genre Most Birds Hate

Our response to music is seen in many different ways and on many different levels. Music can induce happiness, sadness, and a multitude of other emotions. It’s why we listen to it. But do animals experience the same type of emotions that we do? The internet is awash with YouTube videos of parrots and other birds bopping along to a song. Of course, a song lyric’s meaning is presumably lost on a parrot, but certainly the music, with its varied sets of beats, harmonies, vocal patterns and other elements, can invoke a behavior in a bird that is often relatable. Plus, it’s easy to recognize that birds themselves employ their own birdsong with which to communicate and to infatuate others of their kind.

Since Darwin, birdsong has been pored over to determine if it is a musically rewarding trait. Overtime, the many neural responses to music has been studied to determine just what the intents actually are, or if birds receive a pleasurable “reward” moment. Without getting into the incredibly complicated testing phases created for a 2012 Emory University study, scientists determined that female birds, when hearing birdsong, responded to the music in much the same way as people do. In short, the same neural pathways that the human brain employs are the same pathways in use with female birds. For male birds, they revealed a different acceptance, which was not as easily determined to be positive, negative, or indifferent. In fact, some songs appeared to make male birds angry.

Birds Dig Music

As to human created music to the ears of a bird, many bird owners are convinced that there is an appreciation to what is being heard and that it is at times displayed in a dance. Common parrot dances consist of pumping and bobbing motions; back and forth movement between spaces, and other various forms of what could be considered a physical response to the music being heard. We can acknowledge that some birds learn to move during a “favored” song because the bird was taught to do so. Many owners simply start a song, begin dancing, which triggers a mimicking response in the bird. Eventually, the same song will “jump start” the bird to “dance” just as the bird was taught to.

Ultimately, there are many stories of birds responding to a particular style of music, even to the point of rejecting a song by behavior recognizable to the owner as a dislike response. Other studies have supported that parrots can be choosy as to the type of music they prefer. Some seem to prefer calm and complex classical music, some calm Pop, while others appreciate louder, more raucous tunes. But it was determined that most, if not all, of the birds disliked the popular electronic dance music. Given human and creature individuality, it’s not surprising that birds exhibited a unique preference to what they were willing to hear.

Another unique but small study gave several parrots an ability to self-select songs. A touch screen was installed in cages that gave the birds easy access to several types of music, which revealed unique preferences. In the course of a month’s time, both parrots selected their personal favorites no less than 1,400 times between them. This study encourages the use of selectable jukeboxes for parrots within their cages to afford them yet another method of self-entertainment.

Much is still unknown about how birds appreciate music. But one thing is sure among owners: their birds seem to like music of some kind – just not harsh ambient electronica.

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15 thoughts on “Why Parrots Dance & The Music Genre Most Birds Hate

  1. I have seen it many times but this article helps illuminate this often funny parrot behavior. Thanks.

  2. I often wondered why parrots react to music or singing. I really like these bits if information it haps me understand my 6 parrots even more.

  3. Love u guys, i was wondering where i can order a jukebox touchscreen for my parrot?? Also i just luv ur products and studies, excellant JOB, U ALL DO !!!AND THANX SOO MUCH! FROM:CAROL J. HARTLEY // can u tell me where i can get the jukebox for parrots??

  4. My bird loves to sing, but unfortunately I cannot sing. His favorite music is jazz, which is not one of my favorites, so I will play it for him when I’m not around.

  5. So where to I get a parrot proof jukebox- (preferably loaded with bird “favorites”)? 😁

  6. Great insight. In my Parrots there are definite likes and dislikes to specific styles of music and variable responses to the music they enjoy.

  7. Wrong, most of my flock loves ambient electronica on a regular(several times weekly) basis. They have favorite songs, that are not my favorites and they learned the lyrics.

  8. My Grey suddenly sang “Pants on the ground!, pants on the ground!…lookin like a fool with your pants on the ground! He did not hear it in my house…I am 70 and love rock and roll and still have the ability to dance…but not this type of music! Stanley loves the oldies station and will rock with the best of em!

  9. I play Frosty the Snowman to calm my cockatiel since I rescued him. It’s a great trick for altering behavior. Not just for making them dance. Soothing…..

  10. My Bare Eyed Cockatoo has always loved to dance. One day I danced back to her. The expression on her face showed that she likes dancing with someone more than by herself.
    BTW, she loves Tropical Fruit Nutraberries

  11. I clicked your link Shawna, our pionous kept preening, the two caiques growled, the BT Macaw, said “whats that?”, we explained and asked if he liked it, he shook his head no. I wish I had it on video.

  12. Just before this article appeared, a friend told me about a “dancing” starling she’d seen last June.
    I asked her for details, and she gave me permission to share them with you.
    Sara lives in a second-floor apartment; she thus had a good view of the starling, who was on the roof of the building next door.
    The people two houses over turned on their car radio to “instant deafness levels of sound.” The starling bobbed his head and body in time with the music. He also shifted his weight from foot to foot, raising the non-weight-bearing foot and sticking it out to the side as he did so.
    Sounds like dancing to me!
    At the same time as the starling was dancing, he was making “odd grinding and clicking noises in the back of his throat,” also in time with the music: “growl clicka clicka clicka, growl clicka clicka clicka, …” Sara says the noises reminded her of human beatboxing.
    The music was dance music with a strong beat and a heavy bass line.
    Since then the neighbors have played only bland music without these qualities, and the starling hasn’t come by.
    But sometimes he goes to the peak of the roof next door, and, looking over at the house with the car radio, makes a few clicks and growls and does a few dance moves… and when there’s no music, flies away, apparently disconsolate.
    Starlings, like mynah birds, their relatives, are superb mimics of human speech. It would be interesting to know if they can learn to attach meaning to human words, as Alex and Irene Pepperberg’s other parrots have learned to do.

  13. In response to your last sentence:

    Not this bird owner!

    My baby, Kiwi (a Jenday Conure, which was not literally a baby/hatchling at that point-in-time), seem to enjoy “harsh ambient electronica.”
    She didn’t seem to mind the **sub-pounding, bass-blasting** type of music… the type of music that, some might consider to be, the harsh-est kind of “ambient electronica.” She seemed to even like artists such as EXCISION (Not recommended. Especially not, if your boyfriend doesn’t have a degree in audio engineering, like Kiwi’s dad/my boyfriend does; and they don’t have an educated understanding of what causes hearing damage). Lol.

    On that note, she DID have a favorite song in particular.
    This “song” is probably one that only your bird will like having on repeat, haha.
    Ironically, I don’t think their target audience was ACTUALLY intended to be birds, but it so happens to be called:
    “Music For Birds,” by Swick and Lewis Cancut.

    My boyfriend and his brother came across the song while on SoundCloud one day, and played it on our home stereo as we were moving into our apartment. She started to dance and make her “happy chirping/squawking” sounds, so they pulled the camera out and started recording.

    See the video here: https://youtu.be/blLOKrZgeoo, or by searching for AConureNamedKiwi on YouTube.

    This was the first time she had ever heard the song.
    From then on out, she’d always get this burst of pure excitement, in which usually involved her bobbing her head to the beat and dancing.

    Just thought I’d share some thoughts,
    Liselle Ewing, AKA Kiwi’s mom

    **P.S. Birds/avians and animals in general (some more than others) can have much more sensitive hearing then us humans. You should NEVER play music too loudly (or “loud” in general) near any animal.
    ***P.P.S. Kiwi was never sexed and her gender was never actually determined, but we always surmised Kiwi to be female.

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