Image by linda yvonne via FlickrNow is the time of year when male wild birds begin to draw the attention of females, and their courtship practices can be as fascinating as they are complex.
Originally scientists thought that many birds, such as geese, swans and eagles, mated for life only seeking a new mate when the original partner died. Recent research shows that some species are faithful to their pair-bonding only for a season, while others actually have multiple mates simultaneously. For example, after hummingbirds mate, the male will court another female. Male House Wrens build multiple nests and let the female choose the one she prefers. Then, the male may try to attract another female to occupy one of his other nests.
Image via WikipediaBird courtship displays are integral to mating and raising young. Female birds often choose suitors based on appearance, the ability to provide food, evidence that the male can build the strongest and safest nest and other characteristics.
With some species, the male simply flies in front of the female to show off his luminous colors or unique markings. And some birds touch bills or groom each other during courtship.
Male jays and cardinals often present sunflower seeds to their potential mates while Mourning Doves and mockingbirds fluff up their feathers and “dance.” Some seabirds and waterfowl bob their heads, bow and flutter their wings to attract their mates. Cranes are well known for their fantastic dancing as they begin their courtship.
Image by Manjith Kainickara *manjithkaini.net* via FlickrIf you have woodpeckers in your yard, you probably already know one way these birds go after a partner – by rat-tat-tatting on your house or gutter downspouts. They can make quite a racket – the louder the better! Other birds use sound to attract their mates but do so with a song or repertoire of songs. The same rule applies – more is better! A male with a larger repertoire of songs may be considered more attractive than one with only a few songs.
From dancing to eating to nest building to singing, birds have many courtship rituals. And springtime is the most likely time for you spot some of these unique behaviors right in your own backyard!
Peek out the window and let us know what signs of spring’s renewal you spot!