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Valentine’s Day Courtship Strategies – For the Birds

A Pair of Male Sharp-tailed Grouse Displaying for the Ladies.

Listen up, men. As you read this there are three days until Valentine’s Day. That means you have just a few more days left to figure out how to make your special someone feel – well, special.  Fear not, as the birds of this great state have many ideas you can capitalize on to make the holiday one that your significant other will not soon forget – even if they wanted to.

The first bit of birdly advice is you have to look good. Have you ever wondered why the drake mallard has that bright green head, why a rooster pheasant wears so many colors in his feathers or why the male cardinal is covered in so much bright red? It’s all about catching the eyes of the more camouflaged ladies. The girls judge the guys on how good they look as a sign of their fitness. So the better he looks the better his chances at a mate.

Birds are vocal, so you should be, too. Our feathered fauna have an amazing ability to communicate via diverse vocalizations. Now, birds have a variety of reasons for doing so, but one of the most important includes love. The highly developed bird songs we hear often are all about attracting a mate. Guess who does most of the singing? Yep, it’s the boys. From great-horned owls to those wonderfully small black-capped chickadees, they all sing to invite any nearby female to check out their territory. Think of it like bragging set to a really good rhythm.

A tom turkey struts his stuff in attempt to attract a hen

Now, if singing isn’t your thing – and for many of us it isn’t – try dancing. Wild turkeys are probably the most notable of the dancers, puffing up to what looks like twice their usual size, fanning their tail feathers and slowly parading around for the ladies. If you prefer something a bit faster, check out the footwork of our sharp-tailed grouse. With wings spread, head held straight out and pointy tail erect, this dude does some fancy footwork. He is our original Sandhills stomper. The key here is to throw caution to the wind and bust your own move.

Now, if all that fails, go with a gift. Several species go the food route and deliver tasty morsels to their potential mates in an effort to show how good they are at providing. The loggerhead shrike impales food items, such as bugs, on thorns and barbwire to catch the eye of passing females. The least tern uses gifts of fish to woo the ladies. If you can get by with such offerings, go for it; however, you may find the crow being a better role model, as they prefer shiny things.

So you may be wondering what the girls are doing while all this takes place around them. For the most part, they seem pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, sometimes to the point of being downright oblivious to it. But sooner or later they seem to give in and choose a lucky guy. And that is something that seems to transcend several species.


About Aaron Hershberger

Aaron "hershy" Hershberger is an Outdoor Education Specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He loves being outdoors. When not outdoors he is day-dreaming about being outdoors and/or whining that he is not outdoors. Hershy has been a Hunter Education Instructor, in two states, for nearly three decades & a Bowhunter Education Instructor for over 20 years.

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