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Imagine That! - Bowerbirds -- The Mating Game


Imagine That!
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Imagine That! - Bowerbirds -- The Mating Game

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

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Just as human males have a few tricks of the trade to attract their mates, so do their winged compatriots, male bowerbirds!

Imagine That!

In the name of mate attraction, bowerbirds will do almost anything. The male's courtship ritual involves building a "bower," where mating takes place. The males decorate their bowers with blue tidbits, like plastic, feathers, or buttons. The females are attracted to the decorations, and when they stop to investigate, the male performs a courting ritual of fluffing up his wings, buzzing loudly, and running back and forth in front of the female.

While studying this courtship, researchers at the University of Maryland recently found that age plays a role in the mating game, too. They discovered that younger females preferred more of the unique blue decorations and were often frightened off by the intense male mating rituals. Older females were not as attracted to the blue knick knacks, but were more interested in the male's intense display.

Why would anyone find birds' mating rituals interesting? Gail Patricelli, formerly at U. Maryland and now an assistant professor at UC, Davis, explains.

Patricelli: "This research helps us understand the evolution of interactions between males and females and the intricate communication that goes on during courtship."

Understanding wildlife mating habits would also help in the conservation of all sorts of species down the road. I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.

 
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