Cockatiels, one of the world’s most favored pet parrots, don’t just masterfully mimic. In fact, a new study shows that they can spontaneously join in a song—much like humans do—drawing us closer to our winged ancestors than previously thought.
After teaching his three male cockatiels a rendition of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song, Yoshimasa Seki, the paper’s author, played his birds a recording of the tune to see if they’d join in chorus. During his experiments, he found that the birds actively adjusted pauses, pitches, and tempos so that they wouldn’t miss a beat—much like a skilled singer singing in unison with others.
According to Seki, at the department of psychology at Aichi University, this proved there was much to learn from cockatiels, a distant cousin of humans 300 million years apart, about how humans collaborate on a shared task.
“Singing used to be a form of communication for humans. At a certain point, we started singing more for fun, but by studying these distant ancestors of ours, we can improve coordination and group work even among us humans,” he told VICE World News.