7 Amazing Animal Courtship Rituals
What would you do for love? Everyone has a different answer. But at least we can go on dinner dates without worrying whether we’ll become the dinner.
Not every animal in Tanzania can say the same. Courtship gets weird in the wild.
In celebration of the human holiday of love and romance, here are seven incredible courtship rituals you could see on safari.
Spring arrives. Reproductive hormones flood the male weaver’s body. His plumage turns a brilliant yellow, and he enters an almost frenzied state of excitement as he fixates on a single thought: “Mate!”
To do that, he first needs to build a nest. Female weavers won’t even consider him until he’s painstakingly crafted a home just for her. So, with feverish speed, he gathers grasses and twigs, then weaves them together on a drooping tree branch.
It takes two days of rapid work to complete this abode. Unfortunately, his first attempt is usually lousy. Females have high expectations, and if the slightest twig is out of place, she flies off in search of something better.
Is the weaver disappointed? Possibly. Deterred? Never. Moving with hormonal hustle, the male obliterates his subpar house, removing every twig and blade of grass that failed him. He even hauls these pieces far away to ensure he never uses them again.
He builds and destroys like this for weeks, until finally, a female approves of his work. Only then does she line the interior with feathers and lay eggs.
Seems like the male weaver would want a rest, right? Not quite. Without delay, he starts his frantic work on the next house–after all, he’s aiming for up to 20 mates this season.
Kori bustards are the largest bird native to Africa. Such a title can bloat your ego–and your neck pouch.
During the mating ritual known as lekking, male kori bustards inflate their necks to more than four times the normal size. They’re such showboats!
Lekking is all about the boast. Males on the lek gather on hilltops to exaggerate their physical qualities in the hope a female kori bustard will swoon.
When lekking, males also hold their heads back, bulge out their cheeks and emit loud, booming calls. They whoop and holler like this all morning, after which the group disbands before meeting up to lek again in the evening.
Some species suffer for love. Others martyr for it.
That’s the case with a handful of mantis species in Tanzania. Females are known to bite off and eat the head of males during–yes, during–courtship.
It’s not like the male needs it. So long as he can find the female with his other senses, he can continue mating–albeit in ghastly, headless fashion.
Evidence suggests that the sacrifice might even be good for him (not in the short term, obviously). The female’s offspring are much more likely to carry his genes if she devoured his body parts while coupling.
Any concerned male mantises can find small comfort in the fact that females only resort to cannibalism about 13-28% of the time they mate. Their reasons for doing so are varied. Females feast on their partners if they’re starving or want to increase the number of eggs they produce.
In any case, devouring her man can produce up to twice as many eggs for the next generation of cannibal courtship!
Who needs flight when the Serengeti is your dance floor? Ostriches who want to woo hens have to know how to bust some seductive moves.
During the flashy, elaborate courtship dance known as kantling, the male drops to his knees, twists his neck backwards and rocks side to side in a dramatic rhythm. His feathers are fluffed and he flaps his wings to boast his plumage.
Usually, the female isn’t impressed and walks away. But those few times when she is? She flicks her wings to signal her interest, and they become mates for life.
Don’t be fooled by their jagged teeth and scaly skin. These ferocious, half-ton giants have a soft side–they just want to be parents!
To attract a partner and sire offspring, male crocodiles tend to make a huge ruckus. They slap their snouts on the water’s surface and blow bubbles underneath. Both actions send sound waves through the water that let female crocodiles know exactly what he’s about.
A female may reject the male and swim away. But if one is interested, the male can approach, and they rub jaws together. Such nuzzling is a sign of a successful courtship.
Females lead the dance when it comes to black rhino coupling. If a male catches her eye, she’ll whistle and follow him around until he realizes romance is in the air.
What follows is called the “bluff and bluster” ritual, where the male and female engage each other head on. Literally. They butt heads violently, thrash around and horn-joust for hours, until they decide they’ve messed around for long enough, and finally mate.
Lilac Breasted Rollers
With a motley plumage of orange, green, lilac and blue, these vivacious birds are born entertainers. They’re called rollers because both males and females perform spectacular aerial acrobatics to attract mates: rolling, diving and swooping are the main moves in their repertoire of seduction.
Add to that their harsh cries of “rak rak rak,” and you’ve got an irresistible courtship performance.