I watched two courtship displays of birds this morning. One was obvious; the other was subtle. A courtship display is a behaviour in which an animal (often a male) attempts to attract a mate.
The courtship display of the Wild Turkey is anything but recondite. The male spreads its tail, fluffs up its feathers, its head turns blue, its caruncles turn red, its beard hangs down and its snood elongates. Does it work? Well, the number of Wild Turkeys does seem to be increasing. Consider the role of the snood: a red fleshy protuberance that drapes overtop the bill and hangs down well beyond it. It turns out that females prefer to mate with long-snooded males, and this provides a sexual selection that increases the snood’s length. Of course, in an example of the excesses of the marketplace, the displaying male turkey is used in grocery-store marketing in the fall. Alas, it is the spring when the male displays, not at Thanksgiving.
A year ago, I saw a Wilson’s Snipe perched atop the exact same five-metre-tall snag as today. This struck me as rather odd as this snipe is usually secretive. It is well-camouflaged, shy, and it conceals itself within ground vegetation only to flush when approached. Yet, this is the second time I had seen one chirping its presence out in the open. It turns out that this is a courting behaviour. It sings a loud kit, kit, kit from a rather visible perch to attract a mate.