Meme Monday: Harlem Shake

If you’re not active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, you may be missing out on the joy of Internet memes. A meme (rhymes with cream) is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” An Internet meme can be as short as a catch-phrase or as complex as a video clip. A lot of memes are simple graphics which are altered to suit different topics. When a meme is hot, you can be sure there will be variants related to birds or birding.

In February 2013, the music track “Harlem Shake” by artist Baauer spawned a series of funny, short dance videos. The typical Harlem Shake clip is usually about a half minute long. The standard video format is to begin with a single person dancing to the song, surrounded by others who are ignoring the dancing person. This is followed by a rough cut to lots of people dancing to the song, often wearing funny or strange costumes and brandishing odd props. An early parody video went viral in the first week of February, earning over 7 million hits on YouTube in a week’s time. By the middle of February, there were about 12K Harlem Shake videos posted on YouTube.

With this level of virality, of course there are Harlem Shake clips featuring birds. There are a good number of videos featuring parrots. Many bird clips don’t follow the standard format — a single bird is shown dancing, as in this clip featuring a Black-crowned Night-Heron, or the venue changes completely from one scene to the next, as in this European Starling murmuration video (which is pretty funny, anyway). Another clip, called Harlem shake (duck edition) uses this original video set to the music. I had seen the original clip before so I knew what was going to happen but it still made me giggle — especially since I knew the birds would all end up alright (and upright!).

I thought the following Harlem Shake video was just about the only bird-type one worth sharing here. The timing is pretty good in this clip, which begins with a single pigeon feasting on some seed. As the bass is about to drop, more pigeons arrive and a feeding frenzy takes the place of crazy dancing. The video runs too long as the meme goes, but if you watch to the end you’ll see how fast a flock of pigeons can devout a big pile of seed. Impressive!

Share the birds, share the love!
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