Dancing cockatoo: Snowball's moves become focus of research

A dancing cockatoo has turned from internet sensation to scientific marvel.

Snowball the cockatoo found fame on YouTube back in 2007 as the first animal documented as being able to dance to a beat. What makes the bird's smooth moves even better is that they aren't accidental.

More than a decade since Snowball's discovery, a group of very excited scientists have shared their findings on the animal's dancing. 

"We started to notice when he's dancing he would bust out a new move we'd never seen before," said researcher John Iversen.

When played two songs on repeat Snowball seemingly purposefully choreographed 14 distinct dance moves with a particular fondness for the punk-style headbang.

It was first thought Snowball may doing it as a part of a mating ritual common in parrots.

"That might be part of his reason for doing this, he might be going through certain moves to impress a lady," said Ian McLean from Birds New Zealand.

So researchers chose to leave him alone with the music and his owner to show that Snowball's dancing is actually for fun.

"Which starts to sound very much like why we dance," said Iversen.

There is a rumour the cockatoo at Auckland Zoo, Captain, is a wee bit of a show-off, so Newshub went along to see if he had the moves to take on Snowball. But it turned out we caught Captain on the wrong day.

"He seems to do it whenever he feels like it, he enjoys the reaction that he gets because he keeps on doing it. Other days he's not in a dancing or a moving mood," said Lizzy Perrett, team leader of animal experiences.

Regardless, he's already been offered a spot on the next study as Snowball's dance partner.

"Maybe they could dance via video link or something like that," said Iversen.

Dancing with the Cockatoo Stars - coming soon.

But the zoo says cockatoos shouldn't be kept as pets due to their long life spans.

The full study can be found here on Current Biology.