One of my favorite bird behaviors to observe is the eye catching exhibit of courtship. Many birds have remarkable displays and rituals they perform during this period. These behaviors serve many purposes, including attracting a mate, distinguishing a species, identifying a bird's gender, and strengthening pair bonds once a mate is chosen.
Recently here in Florida, I’ve noted several species of birds displaying their fascinating courtship behaviors. Prior to mating, some species develop breeding plumages, which can also be referred to as seasonal or summer plumages. These plumages are often displayed by the males, in hopes of being chosen by a female. The plumage is however, only one factor females consider, as they also choose mates based on factors such as territory, singing talent, and nest building skills.
|Breeding Male Anhinga|
|Breeding Laughing Gull|
|Breeding Glossy Ibis|
|Breeding Male Great Blue Heron|
Many Anhinga are currently displaying their breeding plumages here in Florida. Both the male and female reveal a turquoise facial skin. Laughing Gulls develop a "black hood" during their breeding season. I have notice the Laughing Gulls in this area coming into this plumage over the past few weeks. Glossy Ibis show off a deep chestnut to maroon color accompanied by their their usual dark, glossy green wingss, back, and tail. Great Blue Herons have whitish plumes that hang from the front of its neck and subtle grayish plumes on its back. A black "pony tail" plume hangs from the back of its head. The herons have been nesting here for over a month.
Once a pair has been established, courtship behaviors typically continue to strengthen pair bonds. Courtship feeding or gift giving may occur. Males will present nesting materials to their mate as a show of their abilities. Preening one another is another courtship behavior. I have witnessed the Great Blue Herons performed this ritual on occasion.