February 9, 2015

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, love is in the air. Across the country, people are making plans, stocking up on candy and roses (check out this blog for more on wildlife-friendly flowers) and generally doing what we humans do when trying to show off for our significant other.

But what does courtship look like for wildlife? Animals put a lot of effort into finding and selecting a mate, and their methods vary far and wide as you could imagine. Here’s a look at just a few of the more remarkable ways animals attract a mate.

Ladies Love a Serenade

Few types of animals are as well known for their songs as whales. Though they come in all shapes and sizes, many whale species use songs in some way to attract a mate. Male humpback whales, for instance, form into groups and sing as a chorus. Listen here to a group of 12 to 15 whales singing:

Male Adelie penguins sing for their mates – though penguins certainly have a different taste in music than humans, because these love songs certainly wouldn’t appeal to you or me. They make these sounds as part of something called an ecstatic display, while pointing their beaks to the sky and flapping their wings. Click here to listen.

Another surprising crooner is the Mexican free-tailed bat. Of course, we know that bats rely heavily on sound, using echolocation to help guide their flight and find food. But recently, scientists studying this species found that they don’t only use the more commonly-known chirps and pings, they actually sing like songbirds, and they do it to attract mates. Listen to their songs here:

Flashy Moves to Get a Mate

Sage-grouse are a species that really knows how to show off for their significant others. In early spring, the birds return to their ancestral leks – think of them as dance floors – to put on quite the display. The males strut, fan their tail feathers and swell the bright yellow air sacs on their chests, making a remarkable “swish-swish-coo-oopoink!” sound. The ladies may arrive at the lek alone, but they leave with the best dancers.

On each dance floor, there’s always at least one person that shuffles more than dances. Well the red-capped manakin is the master of the shuffle. Their rapid shuffling back and forth along branches looks a bit like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk!

Not all courtship dances are solo – and they don’t all take place on the ground or branches either. Courting bald eagles take part in a beautiful but complicated aerial dance called cartwheeling, where the pair clasp talons in midair and then spiral downwards, breaking apart at the last possible minute so that they don’t crash. Check out an incredible video of this ritual here.

Who Doesn’t Love Presents?

Some humans shower their loved ones with gifts, and the same is true for certain animals.

The bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea, for instance, build large, elaborate nests and fill them with the most colorful treasures they can find, from leaves, flowers and shiny beetle casings to colorful pieces of glass or plastic. Some of these nests can be several feet wide, and as the master interior decorators that they are, the birds are extremely picky about putting each and every individual item in exactly the right place. Good luck choosing from among these amazing nests, ladies!

Bower bird nest, © James Sinclair

Bower Bird’s Nest at Murramarang Resort.

Puffer fish also work hard to create a display that might attract a mate. Their labor of love takes the form of an underwater crop circle, which they form by flapping their fins as they swim in patterns along the sea floor. The fish themselves aren’t that big (an average of 5 inches long) but their crop circle displays can be up to seven feet wide! Who can resist dedication like that?



Need a Gift?Wildlife adoptions, © Defenders of Wildlife

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