2009-12-03 / Local & State

Dancing Cockatoo's Fame Helps Bird Sanctuary

SCHERERVILLE, Ind. (AP) – The Internet popularity of a dancing cockatoo named Snowball is helping to support his owners’ bird sanctuary.

Snowball gained online fame two years ago by getting down to the 1997 Backstreet Boys song “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” in a YouTube video. Since then, he’s expanded his repertoire to include hits such as Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

When the music plays, the 13- year-old medium sulfur-crested Eleonora cockatoo lifts his legs, squawks and bobs his head, flashing his bright yellow crest to the beat. He occasionally does a side-shuffle along the top of a chair.

The videos have sparked donations that are used to support the Bird Lovers Only Rescue operated by Snowballs owners, Irena and Chuck Schulz. Many of the birds in the home-based sanctuary can be seen in cages in the background of the videos. Most were relinquished by owners who couldn't afford them or give them the attention they need.

“He draws people in,'' Irena Schulz said of Snowball. ``He's basically supporting all the birds here. People really did not know that there was such a thing as a bird rescue or a bird sanctuary until Snowball came around.''

Besides donations, more people are bringing unwanted birds to the Schulzes' sanctuary, but adoptions are down, and Schulz doesn't have the room to care for them all.

“I would love to expand,” Irena Schulz said. It would take a lot more money.”

She said cockatoos are the most likely type of bird to be relinquished. “They’re the No. 1 cause of allergies, more so than the other parrots,” she said.

Snowball recently was included in a Time magazine article about how Internet stars have earned money.

A recent fundraising dance-athon hosted by Snowball provided Thanksgiving dinners for 50 needy families and provided children with Christmas presents.

Snowball’s resume includes an appearance in a Taco Bell commercial, the “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Good Morning America.” He’s scheduled to appear in a show called “Animals at Work” that is broadcast in Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

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