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6 Hilarious Bird Mating Dances to Brighten Up Your Day

bird mating dances
Foto: CC0 Pubic Domain / Unsplash / Mathew Schwartz

Birds are an intriguing part of the animal kingdom, and their often amusing mating rituals are just as fascinating. Let's look at some entertaining bird-mating dances.

All species of animal will display some courtship ritual during the mating season. This usually consists of the males doing their utmost best to attract the interest of females through a dizzying array of sounds, color displays, and movement. The most amusing of these courting rituals would have to be those of birds. From songbirds to seabirds, here are some outstanding examples of bird mating dances performed by these feathered Romeos.

1. The Black-Footed Albatross Bird Dance

  • Range: Canada, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan, China, United States
  • Conservation status: Near threatened
  • Current population trend: Increasing

Albatross species are famous for their elaborate and often endearingly bizarre courtship dances. The bird mating dances of the black-footed albatross is the certainly the most entertaining and enigmatic. This complex ritual involves head bobbing, bill clapping, calling, wing fanning, and sky-pointing.

Potential partners will dance together to determine whether they will be compatible. Because albatross will generally mate for life, this laborious process of finding the ideal dance partner is incredibly important. So important in fact that it might even take years for an albatross to perfect its dance moves and visit the mating grounds repeatedly before finally finding a suitable permanent mate.

2. Superb Bird of Paradise

    • Range: Papua New Guinea
    • Conservation status: Least concern
    • Current population trend: Decreasing

    Living in the dense tropical forests of Papua New Guinea, the Superb Bird of Paradise’s spectacular bird dance came to public prominence thanks to an acclaimed BBC documentary produced by none other than Sir David Attenborough. What makes this mating dance such a standout are the feathers of the males.

    Amazingly, these sport one of the darkest hues of black to be found in the natural world, absorbing nearly 100 percent of direct light. This unusual trait of the black feathers will make the bird’s other green and blue feathers appear even brighter and more iridescent.

    During the courtship dance, males stretch out their plumage to create a stunning ‘parasol’ of striking black and contrasting brighter colors. The effect looks almost like a smiley face, hence why the bird has sometimes been known as the Smiley-Faced Bird of Paradise.

    3. Bird Mating Dances: The Peacock

    • Range: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Bahamas, New Zealand & United States (Hawaiian Is.)
    • Conservation status: Least Concern
    • Current population trend: Stable

    The peacock (aka the male peafowl) probably ranks as the prime candidate when it comes to performing the natural world’s most stunning courtship display. Truly iconic thanks to their long, elaborate tail feathers, peacocks will fan these out to create a spectacular display of colors and patterns. These feathers are just as impressive when they are lowered and folded into a train, where they make up almost 60 percent of the peacock’s overall body length.

    The flamboyant bird mating dance of the peacock is performed purely to attract an interested female, who will then select a suitable partner based on the shape, size, and coloring of the tail feathers, which means of course that the boys better look their absolute best in order to maximize their chances of love.

    4. Clark's Grebe

    • Range: Canada, United States, Mexico
    • Conservation status: Least concern
    • Current population trend: Decreasing

    Clark’s Grebes perform one of the more aerobic bird mating dances you will see in the animal kingdom. Apart from the elegant head arching, a more endearing part of their mating ritual is when the grebes run in sync across the surface of the water in a display known as ‘rushing’.

    Their uncanny ability to walk on water (i.e., ‘rush’ together), a feat made possible by their unique physical characteristics, ultimately determines the future of the potential couple taking part. If a would-be mate can’t keep up the stride and pace, there will be no love match. However, if successful with the first stage of the courtship, the pair will move on from the rushing ceremony to the so-called ‘weed ceremony’ that involves even more elaborate posturing and moves all aimed at impressing further.

    5. Greater Sage-Grouse

    • Range: Canada, United States
    • Conservation status: Near-threatened
    • Current population trend: Decreasing

    Color, movement, and sound all combine to create one of the most complex avian courtship displays in North America. Upon arriving at a suitable courting area, the male sage-grouse will inflate and deflate its yellow throat sacs, all the while thrusting its head backward and forwards.

    The striking movements of this bird dance are accompanied by a ‘whup’ sound that many avid bird watchers have compared to that of a champagne bottle being uncorked. Successful male sage-grouses will keep this up throughout the mating season, often securing multiple mating partners in the process.

    6. Bird Mating Dances of the Sandhill Crane

    • Range: Canada, Cuba, United States, Mexico
    • Conservation status: Least concern
    • Current population trend: Increasing

    For Sandhill Cranes, the key to finding a mate is less about the pomp and ceremony and more about stunning physical feats. The bird mating dances of the Sandhill crane utilize athletic jumping, often grabbing scraps of nearby vegetation that they will throw into the air for added effect.

    The dancing comes across as a lot more freestyle and less regimented than those of other bird species, with bowing and wing flapping being worked into the mix here and there. Once successful in finding a mating partner, sandhill cranes remain monogamous, however, the love of dance lingers and mated cranes will occasionally return to breeding grounds, purely for a little dance practice.

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