Courting in nature – animals find love

FOR wildlife, finding a mate is serious business, and with Valentine’s Day this week, here’s a look at the techniques some animals use to seek love…

Sing it to earn it

Birds are the masters of serenading potential suitors. Our most famous songbird has to be the nightingale, although sadly its song is now absent from much of the UK. A nightingale’s verses are short, but rich in repertoire and with a flair for improvisation.

Some birds are excellent mimics, borrowing sounds from the calls of other species. Starlings are known for their mimicry, copying the sounds of telephones, overturning trucks and even human speech.

Other animals that express their admiration through sound include common frogs, which produce a chorus of soft, purring croaks, while in our seas sound can play an important role in the courtship of whales, dolphins and fish.

naughty dance

A dazzling dance routine is another proven winner in the animal kingdom.

A classic example is the great crested grebe. Each spring, these elegant birds display synchronized braying, posturing, preening and nodding, but it’s the stunning finale that is the piece de resistance.

A pair of grebes will dive and resurface with beaks full of weeds before swimming towards each other and simultaneously emerging from the water like a ballet dancer en pointe. Chest to chest, they hold this upright posture and turn their heads from side to side in a stately routine.

For other birds, such as the black grouse, it is best to dance in groups. But no love is lost in their dawn shows because they are actually dance battles! The males gather and strut around to attract the attention of the females. There’s stomping, tail fanning, posturing and leaping, all to the soundtrack of their own soft, bubbling calls and raspy croaks. This common display is known as lekking and is also shared by two much rarer birds in the UK: the capercaillie and the ruff.

love gifts

Showering love interests in gifts is another tactic. When male scorpion flies approach a female, he presents her with a gift—a humble offering of dead insects or a ball of his own saliva—for the female to eat during sex. A welcome nutritional boost for investing in egg production!

These animal courtship examples show that when it comes to wild seduction, there’s a whole world of weird and wonderful strategies!

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