Snowball the Cockatoo

Snowball the Cockatoo

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Updated May 27, 2014 at 12:43AM EDT by Jacob.

Added May 27, 2014 at 12:21AM EDT by Jacob.

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Snowball the Cockatoo is a Medium Sulphur-Crested Eleanora Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita eleonora) who became famous on YouTube after his owner and Bird Lovers Only Rescue director, Irena Schulz, posted videos of him dancing to music. His internet fame of dancing made him of interest to neuroscientists, and was the first animal shown to capable of beat induction, or “true dancing”.

Pre-Internet History

Snowball was hatched in 1996. In August of 2007, Snowball was brought Bird Lovers Only Rescue by his previous owner[1] who had had him since he was six.[6] The reason Snowball was being brought to the rescue was due to Snowball becoming “difficult to manage” after the owner’s daughter left for college.[1][4] He was given to the rescue with a copy of a Back Street Boys Album. The previous owner asked the Rescue’s director, Irena Schulz, to play the CD to Snowball “and see what happens.” When the song “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” was played. Snowball preceding to dance to the music, much to the surprise of Irena. She later recorded a video of this dancing behavior.

On Youtube

The video of Snowball dancing to Everybody was first posted Irena’s website. This video was later uploaded to YouTube, where it got 200,000 views in the first week [1]


The video has since gained over five million views, with other videos on Bird Lovers Only’s YouTube channel with Snowball gaining several thousand views as well.[5] The original video was also featured on Inside Edition and The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet due to it’s popularity [1]

Scientific Research

In 2008, Snowball’s dancing on YouTube was shown to Researcher Aniruddh D. Patel who was then at the Neurosciences institute in La Jolla California [1]. Patel compared watching the video to that of watching “a video of a dog reading a newspaper out loud”[3] as the ability to keep rhythm was thought to be something only humans were capable of.[3][6] Patel got into contact with Irena, who agreed to allow experiments to verify that Snowball was in fact able to keep rhythm to the beat of music

To test Snowball’s abilities, 11 different versions of “Everybody” were made at differing tempos, ranging from 20% faster to 20% slower. For most of the versions, Snowball began to move[6]. Although Snowball’s dancing was not able to match the beat 75% of the time, he was able to do it the remaining 25% of the time. Patel concluded that “The probability of Snowball displaying even as much synchronization as he did merely by chance was minuscule.”[4] These results were later published in the Scientific journal Current Biology in 2009.[10]

Later work was also by then Harvard Grad Student Adena Schachner to see if other animals could be discovered to be capable of keeping rhythm by watching YouTube videos. She looked at approximately 5,000 videos on YouTube of animals supposedly dancing to see if the dancing was actually in response to keeping a beat. Although there was a large variety of species in the videos only, 14 species of parrots and Asian Elephants were seen performing “true dancing.”[4] It is thought that the ability to mimic sounds and learn vocally is crucial in the ability of animals to keep rhythm [6].

Televised Appearances

Since his Internet fame, Snowball has made guest appearances on many shows, such as the Late Show with David Letterman, and, The Tonight Show Good Morning America [7][8], As well as have segments dedicated to him on other programs such as CBS Sunday Morning.

Snowball has also appeared in television advertisements, first for Swedish Bottled water company Loka in 2008[2] and then dancing to Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” in a drink ad for Taco Bell.[7]

A Children’s book was also published in 2013 titled “Snowball: The Dancing Cockatoo” described as “The true story of how an unwanted cockatoo achieved international fame as a YouTube sensation, television star, and scientific study subject, all by rocking out to the beat of his favorite tunes.”[9]

Search Interest


External References

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