Love in the Animal Kingdom

Love in the Animal Kingdom

How do animals choose a mate?

Why is this bird dancing?

Do you know? Here's a clue - the dancing bird is a male and the other bird is female.

That's right, the male bird is trying to impress the female. The birds are superb birds of paradise. Dancing is the male's way of attracting a female. This is called a courtship display - a special set of behaviours that animals perform to win a mate.

That's not the only unusual courtship display in the animal kingdom. We've picked our top five. Which one is your favourite?

  • It's not just birds that dance. Check out this video of a male jumping spider dancing to impress a female. He sounds like a motorbike!
  • Some birds like to decorate to attract a female. The male bowerbird builds big, elaborate structures, called bowers, out of twigs. They decorate them with whatever they can find - feathers, flowers or even rubbish! Female bowerbirds pick the male with the bower they like best.
  • Male frigatebirds dress up to attract a female. They inflate a huge red sac on their chest, like a balloon! Males wave their wings and heads, wobbling their chest and clacking their bills to make a loud noise.
  • Even insects have strange courtship behaviours. Some male insects give the female presents. Male dance flies catch prey and wrap it in silk - a tasty present for the female dance fly!
  • Lots of male frogs sing to attract a female. Male frogs sing by taking a deep breath, then closing their nostrils and mouth. Air flows over the vocal chords causing the vocal sacs to inflate. In some species, the vocal sacs can be almost as big as the frog! Listen to this noisy western chorus frog:

Why do animals have these strange behaviours to attract a mate? Dancing and bright feathers show females that the male animal is healthy and strong. Gift giving shows the female animal that the male is good at getting food and will provide for their young.

So, all these courtship behaviours are just for show! They're all about convincing the female that the male will be the best father for her offspring.

Next time you hear birds in your garden, stop and think about why they're singing. Could they be trying to impress a female?

Try our interactive quiz and find out what you know about Love in the Animal Kingdom:

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