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breeding display

Great Egret's Lacy Courtship

Male Great Egrets have special long feather plumes called aigrettes, which they use in courtship displays in the spring. These beautiful big birds were nearly hunted to extinction for these special feathers, which were used to adorn ladies’ hats. The plight of the egret spurred people to organize... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, plumage

Some Hummingbirds Perch in the Open

Male hummingbirds — like the Anna's Hummingbird seen here — keep a watchful eye on their territory and will often perch atop a high, bare twig in order to fully view their surroundings. From here, the male hummer will launch himself into the air to perform courtship displays, to chase off rivals,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

What's with the Wattles?

Birds like male turkeys or barnyard roosters have a wrinkly, bumpy flap of red skin called a wattle. But what are wattles for? Birds can’t sweat, so wattles help release excess heat. Wattles are also key to courtship displays. Many other birds, including some storks and plovers, also have wattles... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

House Sparrows' Dance

In 1559, Duke August of Saxony ordered that the House Sparrows of Dresden be excommunicated. The birds were slipping into Holy Cross Church, where they interrupted the sermon with exuberant chirping and “endless unchaste behavior” before the altar. Now their manic chirping and courtship displays... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, history

Fairy-Wrens - To Duel or Duet?

The Red-backed Fairy-Wren, a tiny songbird living the Australian scrublands, is highly territorial and promiscuous. The male can’t be sure the eggs in his nest are his own. One way to help avoid this problem? The male may rough up a rival who approaches his territory. But research shows when Red... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, vocalization

Great Bustard

A Great Bustard shows off to a group of females by inflating special neck sacs – producing what sounds like a massive sneeze followed by a Bronx cheer. He flips his wings almost upside down to reveal bright white undersides, while fanning his tail and long, white throat whiskers. Three feet tall... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher nests in the open country of Texas, Oklahoma, and the south-central region. An elegant bird of pale silver-gray, with a slender, deeply forked tail longer than its body, it has stunning, vivid salmon-pink flanks and underwings. Agile in flight, it can spread and fold... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Kinglet Fireworks

Most of the time, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet is neither ruby nor regal. A tiny songbird washed in faded olive-green, the male shows a hint of crimson atop of his head — hardly a ruby crown. But don’t forsake the kinglet for flashier birds. When courting a female or dueling with another male, the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Light and Song - Sparks in Winter

Even in winter, some birds — including Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches, and American Robins — greet the sunrise with song. We normally hear the dawn chorus in springtime, when birds sing to define territory and attract mates. But birds don’t breed by warmth alone. Day length is a far more... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Woodpeckers - Some of Nature's Finest Drummers

Yikes! What's that bird doing, pounding on my house? In early spring, a male flicker may drum on a metal stovepipe or other resonant surface – a pole, a sign, the trunk of a tree – attempting to attract a mate and proclaim his territory. Many other woodpeckers do the same. Let's look at a few...A... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

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