Tag Archives: mating

He Cleans…Then He Dances! Watch this Amazing Bird.

In the past I have focused my blog posts primarily on nature in North America, wanting to highlight those plants and animals that most of my subscribers would have a chance to encounter if they spent time outside in their backyards or wild areas. But sometimes I come across videos or other resources that shed light on animals and plants that live elsewhere on our planet and absolutely amaze me. The variety and perfection of adaptations in the natural world is astounding! In honor of this fascinating diversity, I am adding a new category to my blog posts, called It’s a Wonderful World.

Some new friends on a recent trip to Costa Rica alerted me to the existence of a new series called Planet Earth II. Many of you are probably familiar with the first series of Planet Earth which came out many years ago. The first one I watched in the new series featured a bird of paradise called a Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. This bird is amazing! First he cleans his “dance floor” of leaves, stick and other debris, then he belts out a tune to call in the female and after she arrives, he proceeds to put on a magnificent display. You can see it here! First the short version–just one minute from the Lab of Ornithology, and then below that, a longer version that is 30 minutes from National Geographic. Enjoy! And as always, I’d love to know what you think! Drop me a comment in the box below to share your thoughts.

See you again soon!


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10 Things You May Not Know about Prairie Chickens

Safe to say before this recent trip to Nebraska I knew nothing about the animal called a prairie chicken! So maybe you are like me and this will all be new.

Last week I wrote a brief post about a bird called a prairie chicken. If you live in the midwest, you may have seen or heard of this bird. If you live elsewhere but travel through the midwest in the spring, you may want to consider stopping in to see their unique mating dance, which takes place every morning and evening for about 4-6 weeks. It is incredible!

prchick-9583Before traveling to Nebraska and seeing these birds, I knew nothing about them. But now I know a lot! Here are some things I learned about greater prairie chickens:

prchick-95981.Greater prairie chickens are found only in the United States and only in a few places, many of which are on private land. In much of their original range they are extinct or endangered. There are thought to be about 459,000 remaining prairie chickens. They need open grassland with grass 10-18 inches long for roosting and nesting in. They are found in Kansas, Nebrasaka, Oklahoma, and scattered areas in Wisconsin, Illinois and Colorado.

2. Have you ever visited those states during winter? If so you know it is pretty cold! But even so, prairie chickens do not migrate. Instead, they dig into the snow, creating horizontal tunnels which insulate them from the freezing temperatures. They have feathers on their legs and feet which helps to keep them warm. Like many other animals, they change their diet in winter, becoming herbivores.

3. The rest of the year prairie chickens are omnivores. They eat a variety of plant and animal matter including leaves, seeds, buds, grains, insects and other invertebrates.

prchick-95424. Prairie chickens have a mating ritual that they participate in each spring called booming. Males in breeding plumage are pretty spectacular, with yellow combs over their eyes, feathers that look like rabbit ears that can be held erect or laid back over their neck, yellow patches below their eyes that they inflate with air to create a unique “booming” sound and a tail that fans out and stands erect.


Here are two videos of this: (I did take videos of this ritual but because I was in a blind with other photographers who were in “rapid fire” mode, it is hard to hear the chickens so I am choosing to use these videos instead)


5. Prairie chickens are polygamous and become sexually mature at one year of age.

prchick-95676. Booming rituals take place at “leks,” which are the “dance floors” for the birds. Leks don’t look very different than surrounding grassland but the males claim about 100 square feet of ground and then defend it against other interested males. Two males can often be seen facing off on their leks, then jumping into the air and having physical contact with their competition for the eligible females.

7. Females create a shallow depression and arrange grass into a bowl shape, lining it with sticks, leaves and feathers that she removes from her breast. She will lay 5-15 eggs and incubate them for 25 days. When the chicks hatch, they can feed immediately. They will stay with mom for 8 weeks.

Non-native ring-necked pheasants share habitat with prairie chickens

Non-native ring-necked pheasants share habitat with prairie chickens

8. Ring-necked pheasant females –another bird of the open grassland–sometimes lay their eggs in greater prairie chicken nests and these eggs hatch before the prairie chicken eggs. Female prairie chickens will then isolate these pheasant eggs, thinking they are theirs. As a result, their own eggs often do not survive.

9. Prairie chickens weigh in at 2-3 pounds and are 16.9 inches long.

prchick-942610. A group of prairie chickens is called a “little house” or a “pack” of prairie chickens.

Do you have anything to add about prairie chickens? Have you witnessed their booming ritual? As always, I’d love to hear from you! Use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

Posted in Animal Sounds, Animals, Birds, Did you know..., Encounters of the Furred Kind, Weekly Creature Feature | Also tagged , , , , , , Comments Off on 10 Things You May Not Know about Prairie Chickens

Safe Sex? Not for this Insect.

sex-7227In the animal kingdom, there are numerous examples of bizarre mating rituals, many from animals we’ve never even heard of or seen. But what about a Water Strider? Even if people don’t identify it correctly, it is likely an animal many people have seen, especially if they spend any time near freshwater. These long-legged insects skate across the surface of the water, their dark shadow often decorating the rocks below. They seem so graceful and innocent… but looks are deceiving.

Water striders most definitely do not practice safe sex, though it’s the males who are responsible for this, not the females.

Female water striders have evolved to have a genital shield and they must give consent to interested males. Problem is, sometimes they are just not interested in getting frisky and would rather be left alone. Males do not appreciate this obvious lack of interest and so resort to taking matters into their own hands, or in this case, legs, as in 3 pairs of long ones.

sex-7835-2The male will approach a female and if she’s not all that interested  he will climb on her back anyway. If that doesn’t convince her he will begin to tap one or more of his long legs into the water, vibrating them ominously. Fish below the surface may see the vibrations and come in for a closer look, and maybe a tasty meal if it continues. Since he is on top, further from the fish, he might not get eaten. But she will.

The faster the female gives in, the smaller the likelihood of her becoming fish food.

sex-7230I bet you’ll never look at Water Striders the same again. Me either.

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Weekly Puzzler #48

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends! In honor of the holiday, today’s Puzzler celebrates love in the animal kingdom, or, maybe not love, but at least sex for these two members of the insect community. The photo was not taken recently!

What kind of butterflies are pictured here? And then as a bonus, which one is the male? CLICK HERE to learn the answer. puzzler48-6884


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