The Mating Dance of Birds Around the World

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on The Mating Dance of Birds Around the World

As humans, we have multiple avenues for meeting a potential mate. From the traditional “dinner and a movie,” to online platforms for dating such as eHarmony and, finding a good match can be as simple as being in the right place at the right time—or merely logging in and browsing online profiles. In the animal world, there are no online profiles or first, second, and third dates. However, many different animal species have a round of “go to” courtship rituals all their own.

When members of the bird class court one another, they draw from mating practices in any of the following forms: singing, feather/plumage displays, preening/cleaning, feeding, nest building, etc. However, one of the most common courtship rituals of the class manifests in bird mating dance. For those who practice recreational bird watching, learning the mating dances of various avian species can aid in identification.

The Albatross
The dance of the albatross lasts for several minutes, and it features more than a few unique segments. One component is call “billing,” and it consists of one individual gently touching the others bill. Another common sight in albatross courtship ritual dancing is “sky pointing” where the bird gets on its tip-toes, elongates its neck, and directs its bill upwards towards the sky. Albatross are native to the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific.

albatross bird mating dance

The Manakin
The mating dance of the male Manakin bird has also been dubbed the “backwards leapfrog” with the movements entailing exactly what the name implies. Instead of a performance by a single bird, a team of two cooperative Manakin males engage in this “backwards leapfrog” dance in order to attract a single female Manakin. While the alpha male in the team secures the courtship, the beta male dancer serves as a mere wingman in the whole display. The Manakin can be found dwelling scattered across the American tropics.

manakin bird mating dance

The Emu
In the mating game, the courtship rituals of the Australian-native emu begins with both male and female circling one another, strutting and displaying plumage. If the male emu is attracted, his movements are overtaken by a frenzied jumping and back and forth snake-like movement of his neck and head. All the while, the female continues to strut and display her feathers. The bird mating dance of the emu is an elaborate display that involves both sexes.

The Sharptail Grouse & Prairie Chicken
The mating ritual, or “Grassland Dance,” of the Sharptail Grouse and the Prairie Chicken provides similar sightseeing opportunities to behold. At home in the Nebraska plains, these species use a designated mating ground, called a lek, to jump, prance, and pose. Unlike the cooperative efforts of the Manakin teams, this is a competitive foray, with every male Prairie Chicken and Sharptail Grouse for himself. To read more about this entertaining mating dance, click here.

Whatever method these bird species may choose—singing, feather displaying, preening, feeding, nest building, or dancing—it’s all about the propagation of the species. When it comes to the Albatross, the Manakin, the Emu, the Prairie Chicken, and the Sharptail Grouse (amongst numerous other bird species); may the best dancer win! For humans, the courtship rituals of our feathered friends make for excellent bird watching.