Wood Ducks by Jeff Hebert

Courtship Advice From Birds

It’s that special time of year. Love is in the air…and our feathered friends certainly know it!

As spring slowly approaches in North America, we know that many species will begin puffing up their chests and filling the air with trills and chirps in hopes of attracting a mate for their future family. Maybe you’re not as suave as the next guy when it comes to romance, but don’t worry. The birds can offer you expert advice! The courtship rituals of birds are very diverse and fun to watch.

Here are some romance tips from avian studs who always get the chick.

1) Brush up on your dance skills

King Bird-of-Paradise. Photo by Tim Laman

King Bird-of-Paradise. Photo by Tim Laman

You can always start with a tango up a tree branch before rapidly rotating your long, filament-like tail feathers, just like a King Bird-of-Paradise. Don’t have tail feathers? Never fear! You can substitute two glowsticks attached to long strings. Now, tango! The glowing lights are sure to attract a mate. Many birds-of-paradise court future mates with elaborate dances that highlight their colorful and unique feather displays.

Not a fan of the rave scene? You can always try moon-walking to some “Billie Jean”, just like the Red-capped Manakin, which uses its smooth dance skills to attract the ladies.

2) Buy her flowers

Superb Fairy Wren couple, photo by David Jenkins

Superb Fairy-wren couple. Photo by David Jenkins

Not just lyrics from a Bruno Mars song, this advice actually works, for the Superb Fairy-wrens of Australia, that is. They bring their potential mates a flower petal as part of their courtship ritual. While this works for fairy-wrens, you may want to give an entire flower, just to be on the safe side.



3) Decorate your crib

A mature male Satin Bowerbird performing his courtship routine at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra. Photo by Leo.

A mature male Satin Bowerbird performing his courtship routine at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra. Photo by Leo

Bowerbirds in Australia know that this works! The bowerbird will agonize over every last detail of his bower like an interior designer, from where the pile of red flowers should go, to how many shiny beetle shells look best in the bottom right hand corner of the space. If only we could all hire bowerbirds to spruce up our places

4) Get flashy

Peacock Profile. Photo by Dalton.

Peacock Profile. Photo by Dalton

Why hide when it’s time to go out and show off those beautiful feathers? Of course I’m talking about peacocks—and you! Strut your stuff with confidence. Peacocks proudly lift their plumage and strut when all the peahen (the ladies) are around, showing off their iridescence in a shimmering fan. If that doesn’t get the girls’ attention, you’re probably wearing the wrong feathers, er…I mean, clothes.



5) Serenade your crush

Superb Lyrebird. Photo by David Cook.

Superb Lyrebird. Photo by David Cook

This one is a classic. But we’re not talking mariachi band visiting the dinner table. The Superb Lyrebird can mimic any song it hears in the forest, and can even imitate some sounds from man-made objects, like chainsaws, car alarms, and camera motors! While these sounds aren’t exactly romantic, the degree to which the vocalization sounds like the original is sure to impress. Alternatively, you can always try serenading your loved one with a song you’ve written or, like the lyrebird, mimic any one of the millions of love songs that currently exist.

So there you have it, love advice from some beaky hot shots. Try them out*, share them with friends you think could benefit** or  just relax, knowing that you don’t have to worry about strutting feathers longer than your body or sounding like a chainsaw.

* We do not take responsibility for the actions or results of any homo sapiens attempting these rituals.
** We do not take responsibility for your friend’s reaction to receiving these splendid suggestions.

D Trocio Photography (Cardinal Love)

“The Courtship” by D Trocio Photography

Interested in teaching about diversity and evolution? Check out our free Evolution in Paradise download featuring the birds-of-paradise (like the King Bird-of-Paradise featured above)!




Jessica Kirste (Swan Love)

“Swan Love” by Jessica Kirste

Learn more about these and the courtship rituals of other birds through the Lab’s online distance learning course, Courtship and Rivalry.


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