Parrots prefer classics to techno
They are known as great mimics, but now scientists have discovered that parrots also have varied musical tastes – and an intense dislike of modern dance tunes.
Researchers monitored the listening preferences of a pair of African grey parrots and found that while one favoured soothing "middle of the road" music, the other opted for more upbeat, modern pop.
Both birds also enjoyed rock and folk music and "danced" along, by bobbing their heads and legs. They even "sang along", by squawking. But electronic dance music left them both distressed.
Dr Franck Peron, from the University of Lincoln, said: "The birds clearly showed preferences. . . There is no trend for the birds. Even if they are in the same place hearing the same things, they do not prefer the same music."
The research initially involved three parrots, Leo, Zoe and Shango, being played a series of "rhythmic" songs by U2, UB40 and Joan Baez. They all appeared to enjoy this and were observed dancing and singing along, with excited calls and human words.
They also listened to several cantatas by Bach that appeared to relax them.
The two male parrots – Leo and Shango – then took part in a second trial in which a touch-screen monitor was left in their cage, with two large buttons, which could be pressed by the birds' beaks and which activated a 15-second segment of two different songs: either I Don't Feel like Dancing, by the pop group Scissor Sisters, or the more soothing La Petite Fille de la Mer by Vangelis.
The touch screen was left in their cages for a month. Although the pair liked to listen to both songs, clear preferences emerged – with Leo consistently choosing the Scissor Sisters and Shango opting for Vangelis.
The birds' aversion to dance music emerged when the researchers were listening to music of their own.
Dr Peron explained: "The dance music was not appropriate for them. We had the radio on in the office and when it was a very fastbeat, they started to scream; not in a friendly, communicative way but in a distressed, scared way. They seem to like pop music when there is a voice."
The findings are published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour.