Viral Cockatoo Barks Like Dog, Teaches Lesson in Mimicry

Flickr / patrickkavanagh

In a bizarre video making the rounds on the internet, a cockatoo walks around a terrace, barking like a dog. And not only does it sound like a dog, it bucks its head while it barks, furthering the illusion that it’s a doggo. The video, which does not appear to be fake, forces viewers to consider an often-overlooked question: What sound does a cockatoo make?

Well, it’s complicated. But animal science can explain why this bird is offering viewers a hefty dose of cognitive dissonance. The cockatoo belongs to a family of medium-sized parrots, which generally communicate with one another by vocalizing in a really loud, annoying squawk. But cockatoos, like other parrots, also mimic the sounds they hear in their environment.

The majority of the known 21 cockatoo species aren’t protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora, which means that many birds have been transported to owners around the world. Thus, these birds have gotten exposed to strange sounds beyond those of their natural habitat. The viral barking bird, in particular, seems to have either been hanging out with dogs or listening to a whole lot of DMX. Check it out here:

Parrot species mimic sounds around them to a variety of degrees and for a variety of reasons. One explanation, offered by Michael Schindlinger, an assistant professor of biology at Lesley University, is that their mimicry skills show off their ability to learn to other individuals. “Imitative vocal learning is also a reliable social display of neural functions — requiring good hearing, memory and muscle control for sound production — that may be under consideration by a potential mate or ally,” he wrote in Scientific American.

Still, despite the scientific explanation, the barking cockatoo video may seem like a hoax — until you consider that many birds have accomplished similar feats. Given the huge variety of sounds that parrots mimic, including R2-D2 and possibly even a murder victim, it seems pretty darn plausible. And as far as parrot noises go, a dog’s bark is pretty far from being the strangest sound a cockatoo has ever made. For instance:

In the above video, not only does the cockatoo meow, but it even seems to act like a cat, hissing and confronting its buddies physically. And since scientists have found that the cockatoo is one of the only animals that can actually dance, the fact that it can take in what it’s seeing in the world and translate that into its own form of physicality should come as little surprise, even if it looks weird as fuck.

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