Courtship Behaviors in Other Organisms

With Saint Valentine’s Day coming soon, it would be fascinating to see how other organisms behave during their respective “seasons of love.” I recall from watching what I believe was Planet Earth, and David Attenborough was narrating about a male Hummingbird that had two exceedingly long tails with very large tail feathers. This male Hummingbird, the name of which escapes my mind at the moment, has to prove to the female of the same Hummingbird species that it is able to fly very well. So, the male Hummingbird has to hover and move its tail feathers back-and-forth, and sideways, to make intricate patterns. Unfortunately, not only are these movements exhausting for the male Hummingbird, but the female was not at all impressed. Poor bird.

Note: I finally found the Hummingbird in question. It is the Marvelous spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis).

This is the sixth picture from the observation “Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis)” at by @nlaroche, September 25, 2014. Accessed 10 February 2021.


Bird Bombers: Our local Anna’s Hummingbirds have an interesting courtship behavior.

The male makes a sudden Parabolic Dive that results in a pretty loud THWEEEKK! They do this over my patio from 50-75 feet up, mostly in the winter and spring, but occasionally at other times. Sometimes the bird will just do it once or twice. Other times, an exuberant bird will keep dive bombing 10 or more times in a row.

The sound is caused by the tail feathers, not a vocalization.

Hummer’s parabolic dive

This one keeps going and going


Hubba Hubba lizards:

I caught this pair in the courtship ritual. She gets away, but then he does his he-man pushup pumps, and she comes back.


Our white tailed kites sometimes clasp talons in midair to build bonds they need for mating.


Last year I witnessed the courtship process of two squirrels - they chase each other around the tree, and it’s really fun to watch.


During the summer months I’ll hear what sounds like demon monkeys fighting outside my house at night. Then I remind myself it’s just barred owls courting each other


You may be interested in this project:


Male giant pill millipedes in the genus Sphaerotherium stridulate (“chirp”) with rear appendages to entice females to unroll and commence mating. Different species have different vibrational patterns. This is described in a paper (Wesener et al. 2011) that contains one of my favorite science diagrams of all time:


Banana slugs bite each other before twisting into a sort of yin-and-yang shape (lots of observations here). And then they sometimes bite off each other’s genitals afterwards…

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Not sure whether this would count as courtship so much as an old profession, but Pygoscelis penguins have some interesting behaviours


hoppers (Auchenorrhyncha excluding Cicadas)—particularly leafhoppers and treehoppers—make unique sounds with tymbal structures which they use to communicate courtship calls in reverberations through plants. you can listen to recordings here.

I’ve seen some globular springtails do a little dance head-to-head, I can’t remember if this is courtship-related.


As with humans, courting grebes dance. David Attenborough has this one covered too…


I would love to see a bowerbird displaying his bower. I have heard of species who collect items and sort them by color; and the Satin Bowerbird preferentially collects blue items that match his plumage.


You might be interested in Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex by Olivia Judson.

It’s a humorous, but biologically accurate look at mating and courtship practices of a wide range of species, presented in the format of a newspaper write-in advice column.

An example of how a section starts:

Dear Dr. Tatiana,

My lioness is a nymphomaniac. Every time she comes into heat, she wants to make love at least once every half an hour for four or five days and nights. I’m worn out—but I don’t want her to know. You couldn’t suggest any performance-enhancing drugs, could you?

Sex Machines Aren’t Us in the Serengeti


Two good books are:

“The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think” by Jennifer Ackerman. I won’t give you any spoilers. But, if you like birds, you will enjoy this book.

Another fun read is:
“Sex in the Sea” by Marah Hardt
It examines all sorts of bizarre things that happen to produce new life in the oceans.

Dragonflies: Last summer I started looking for dragonflies for iNat because there is a survey in Ohio for them. I did some reading and talked to a bunch of people who have been observing them for years. I learned that some species will “hook up” and then go underwater up to a foot below the surface where the female lays her fertilized eggs with the male still attached. It is thought that this makes the adults a little bit safer from predators who would catch them on the surface, and the eggs are below the water as opposed to some other species that lay them on the surface.

Another odd thing (to us humans) is the way dragonflies and damselflies “hook up” physically. The male pokes the female behind her head.

(These are both my observations.)

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Wow, great pictures! In the second Observation, it looks like their bodies form a heart-shape. :two_hearts:

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Last year after the spring bird migration went through NE Ohio, I went out and started looking for dragonflies and damselflies. There is an annual dragonfly/damselfly survey for Ohio (out of Ohio State University) that uses iNat, So, I started making entries here. You have to submit a decent photo for the survey. I don’t have a very good camera for taking shots of birds; but, it is good for dragonflies/damselflies.

I think my favorite one is the American Rubyspot:

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More stories from NYT: As Mating Rituals Go, Valentines isn’t so bad

Male Peacock Spiders ( act like avian peacocks in their mating display–they stick up their brightly colored abdomen and dance around. It’s one of the cuter displays in the arthropod world.

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