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Terns, Plovers, and People: Living in Harmony

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This beach on Naval Base Coronado is one site where field biologists are studying California least tern and snowy plover populations (U.S. Navy photo by S. McLaughlin, SDZG)

As field biologists, we are lucky to have some of the most beautiful offices in the world. Every day, my coworkers and I get to enjoy long walks on the beach, warm sunshine and the occasional passing dolphin pod. Of course with views like the one in the photo, we are working alongside many other people enjoying a day at the Pacific Ocean. It’s wonderful to see people appreciating the beach habitat we all love so much, especially when it’s done in a respectful and responsible way. So, here are a couple of thoughts from a field biologist.

Both the California least tern and western snowy plover are sensitive to human disturbance. While some bird species will remain on their nest until you are very nearly upon it, terns and plovers seem to hop off at the first sign of danger. Plovers can be seen in the vicinity of the nest, performing the broken-wing display to draw perceived predators away from their nest. Terns take a more aggressive approach, screeching at and dive-bombing anyone that approaches their nest; sometimes several members of the colony will join in to drive the threat away. With the numbers of terns and plovers at critically low levels, it’s important that the birds are able to spend their energy caring for their young, instead of chasing off disturbances.

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With chicks this cute and helpless, it’s easy to see why we want to protect California least tern populations. (U.S. Navy photo by S. McLaughlin, SDZG)

The most common instances of disturbance we see out in the field are people walking through the colony and dogs being allowed off leash in areas with nesting birds. In addition to upsetting the adult birds, these types of disturbances can result in trampled eggs and chicks, and stressed-out young. Luckily for all the recreational beach users out there, avoiding creating a disturbance is very easy! The most important step to take is observing and abiding by posted signs. If you are ever approached by a game warden or field biologist, don’t be afraid to ask questions. We love to talk about the terns and plovers, and outreach is an important part of our jobs!

The beaches of southern California and the birds that live there offer amazing opportunities for people to engage with nature. If we enjoy these resources respectfully and responsibly they will hopefully be here for many more years to come.

 

Stephanie McLaughlin is a research associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

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Plover Hide and Seek

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A snowy plover chick’s cryptic coloring helps it hide from predators. (Photo: Rachel Smith, SDZG at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton)

Well it’s finally here, SUMMER! As a born-and-raised San Diegan, I know that one thing is for certain this time of year: the beaches become a popular place to visit for some fun in the sun. Besides having to share the sometimes-crowded beaches with other humans, we need to remember that there are other animals that also live on the beach. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with two of those wonderful animals, the threatened western snowy plover and the endangered California least tern.

The snowy plover can be seen year round in San Diego, but the California least tern only comes to our shores during the breeding season, which is April through August. I’m sure if you’ve been anywhere near the tern breeding colonies, you will have seen these small white birds flying around like fighter pilots chasing one another and sounding like storm trooper ray guns. The plovers are small, sandy brown shorebirds with gray legs that hang out in the wrack line of kelp, eating as many bugs as they can get in their bills.

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Can you spot the snowy plover chick hiding in this vegetation? Click on the image to enlarge it. (Photo: Rachel Smith, SDZG at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton)

During the summer at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the beaches are full of plovers and terns nesting and raising their chicks. For both terns and plovers, it takes about four weeks for chicks to be able to fly. Thus, they have to rely on camouflage to evade the eyes of predators; as biologists and monitors, this camouflage can make it challenging for us to locate them. Plover chicks are particularly good at hiding. First off, for lack of a better description, they are adorable. They look like freckled gray cotton balls with legs. Those legs come in handy when evading land predators, especially as the chicks get closer and closer to fledging (meaning they can fly). Their first defense is hiding, especially when they are young, and these little guys are experts at hide and seek.

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There it is! Click on the image for a better look. (Photo: Rachel Smith, SDZG at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton)

We are always keeping an eye out for them, looking for clues based on the behavior of the adult plovers (especially adult males) but we don’t always find them. It’s amazing how well the chicks blend into the sand and vegetation. They practically disappear and you often have to be right over them to see them. Often, our best chance of seeing the chicks when we are out monitoring is using our truck as a makeshift blind to watch for them out foraging around in the dunes and along the water’s edge. Amazingly, the birds do not perceive the truck as a threat and we can get much closer when we are inside the truck than outside of it.

Another technique we use is to blend in by staying a long distance away and using a spotting scope or binoculars to watch the behavior of the adult male (who does the rearing of the chicks) to find out where the chicks are hanging out. Watching these chicks grow up to become fledglings is a real treat, especially when I see them trying out their wings and getting a little air for the first time. It just puts a smile on my face knowing they have made it and are pretty much all grown up.

So, while I’m out with my fellow biologists doing our part to help protect these amazing animals, you as beach goers can do your part by respecting closed beach areas even when it is crowded, and keeping the beaches clean not only for each other but for all the animals that live there too. By doing this you can be a hero for wildlife and go home happy knowing that you are giving plovers and terns a safe place to grow up for future generations to enjoy.

Rachel Smith is a senior research associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

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The Art of the Western Snowy Plover’s Nest

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Some snowy plover nests are a simple scrape in the sand, adorned with shells. (Photo: Anjanette Butler, SDZG on MCB Camp Pendleton)

Unlike most beach-nesting shorebirds, the western snowy plover has taken nesting to the level of an art form. I have been monitoring this threatened species during the nesting season as part of my job as a research associate with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Previously, I primarily searched for snowy plover nests along the Oregon Dunes, as well as California beaches with dune habitat. Our current study site at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton offers a more diverse habitat.

Because of their nesting strategy, I become more intrigued with snowy plovers the more I get to work with these resilient birds. Before the eggs are laid, the male creates some nests by making various circular scrapes in the sand and the female selects the one she likes best. I have seen some of these simple nests adorned with decorative shells, others that incorporate the available vegetation along the dunes, and even quite a few containing woody debris that can be found concentrated along the creeks.

I’ve been impressed by how well the plovers use the resources—both natural and manmade—available to them. Last year, lobster traps sometimes washed up on beaches we were studying in Ventura, California and a plover used one of them as a nest site. The lobster traps looked very much like the mini-exclosures we use to protect nesting birds from predators. Made of wire mesh and shaped like a square (with small openings so the adult plovers can exit when needed); we place an exclosure over a plover nest until the chicks hatch. Apparently, the plovers there had gotten used to the protection offered by the exclosures, and the nesting pair that used the lobster trap did indeed successfully hatch and raise their chicks.

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Western snowy plovers are adaptable, using available resources when nesting. (Photo: Anjanette Butler, SDZG on MCB Camp Pendleton)

In contrast, our study site at MCB Camp Pendleton is more remote, so the birds there must rely on the available natural resources when selecting a nesting site. This year, we have some birds nesting along a creek. I could not believe how well one of the nests blended in with the woody debris and rocks around it—I almost did not see it at first! I feel so good when the birds’ hard work pays off and we get to see their chicks hatch. Hopefully, they will survive and continue in their parents’ footsteps.

Western snowy plovers face many challenges each day. Predators like crows and ravens, intelligent birds that are great problem solvers, are a constant threat to the plovers. It is possible that the plovers are sometimes testing out ways to keep these and other predators from locating their nests. This might seem like an obvious observation, but shrinking habitat availability in critical plover habitat can create the need for the plovers to find new ways to adapt to disturbances. It is vitally important for us as individuals to respect these birds during this busy nesting season on the beach.

I look forward to more discoveries while monitoring the western snowy plovers and their chicks on the beach.

Anjanette Butler is a research associate with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

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Penguin Cam Offers Live Views of Adorable Birds

PrintA live cam showing the antics of two young penguins at the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo debuts today. The new cam, featuring penguins Dan and McKinney, is part of a popular feature of the San Diego Zoo Global website and can be accessed at sandiegozoo100.org/penguincam.

The two young penguins are residing at the Children’s Zoo while their new habitat, Penguin Beach, is being built.  Penguin Beach, which opens in 2017 in Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks, will resemble southern Africa’s shoreline with a sandy beach nestled among towering boulders. Gentle waves from a more than 60,000-gallon penguin pool will lap on the sand and guests will be afforded close-up and underwater viewing. Also included are 30 burrows that lead to nest boxes in a penguin care center, where parents can nurture their chicks. The new habitat is being funded largely by a $5 million gift from local philanthropists Dan and Vi McKinney. The McKinneys’ leadership gift, along with support from 1,550 additional donors, will enable the Zoo to create Penguin Beach, a seashore habitat and breeding center that will be home to as many as 50 African penguins.

African penguins face many threats in the wild, and they are one of the most endangered species of penguin.  From 2001 to 2009, researchers have noticed a decrease in the African penguin population by more than 60%, making the conservation of this species critical.

San Diego Zoo Global is taking a leadership role in conservation awareness and hosts more than 275,000 schoolchildren on grounds at the San Diego Zoo each year. San Diego Zoo Global works with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) on conservation efforts for African penguins in South Africa and is part of the conservation action plan called SAFE. This program is a biodiversity management plan looking at challenges and concerns these birds are facing in the wild, including commercial fishing, human disturbance of habitat and oil spills.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Spot On!

Brightly colored mouth nodes help a Gouldian finch chick get spotted by its parents.

Brightly colored mouth nodes help a Gouldian finch chick get spotted by its parents.

It’s baby bird season! A lot of our collection birds are sitting on eggs, feeding tiny chicks, and teaching their young fledglings how to make that final leap and learn to fly. As a senior associate in the Wildlife Disease Labs, I examine a lot of different species of baby birds. Some have really cool adaptations to life as a tiny chick in a dark nest!

Gouldian finches win the prize for the most colorful chick beaks. This species nests in the hollows of trees, keeping their chicks safe in the darkness. Pearlescent white and blue nodes on the each side of the chick’s mouth shimmer in the low light of the nest, creating an easy marker for the parents to spot. Gouldian finch chicks tend not to make any noise; they simply open their mouth, turning their head gently side to side, and the glimmer attracts the parents’ attention. They may be tiny, less than an inch tall at hatch, but it’s easy to spot the Gouldian finch chick spots!

 

It would be hard for a coua parent to not spot this plea for food!

It would be hard for a coua parent to not spot this plea for food!

The Northern crested coua has white circles on the inside of its mouth that look like targets to help the parent birds find the chick in the nest. These distinctive marks alert the parents that the chick is hungry and begging for food. Other chicks, like the common waxbill and paradise whydah, have similar black swirls and spots on the inside of their mouths. It turns out paradise whydahs will often lay their eggs in a common waxbill nest (free babysitting!), and when the chicks hatch the waxbill parents are unable to tell the difference between waxbill and whydah chicks. Waxbills will feed all of the chicks in their nest, even if the waxbill female hasn’t laid an egg of its own!

What other spots have you spotted around the Zoo or Safari Park recently?

Rachael Keeler is a Senior Research Associate with the Wildlife Disease Labs at the Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous blogs, Let’s Hear It for Honking Swans! and Finding a Cure for Scratchy Throats.

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Eight Captive-reared Mangrove Finches Prepared for Return to the Wild

Global_logo_color webOn Friday, April 17th, the Mangrove Finch Project team transported eight captive-reared mangrove finches back to Isabela Island to begin the careful process of preparing the birds for their release. The Mangrove Finch Project team, led by the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment via the Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), in collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, is in the second year of its effort to save the critically endangered mangrove finch.

During February 2015, eggs and one wild hatchling were collected at Playa Tortuga Negra, Isabela Island. Eight fledglings were captive reared at the Charles Darwin Research Station’s (CDRS)  facility on Santa Cruz Island. The fledglings were reared and cared for around the clock by a team led by San Diego Zoo Global and expert staff and volunteers from the Charles Darwin Foundation and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Fund.

The mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates), the rarest of “Darwin´s Finches,” has an estimated population size of just 80 individuals, with fewer than 20 breeding pairs. Research shows that the introduced parasitic fly Philornis downsi is one of the principal causes of high nestling mortality, with as much as 95% of nestlings dying during the first months of the breeding season in natural conditions.

Upon arrival at Playa Tortuga Negra, the eight fledglings will be placed in small cages suspended inside the pre-release aviaries. The birds will be released into aviaries built for the purpose and held for 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to life in the wild. During this time, the aviaries will be filled with fallen trunks, bark, fresh leaves and branches and leaf litter. Natural foods of mangrove finches, like live locally caught insects, will be released into the enclosures to encourage natural foraging. Eventually the aviaries will be opened and the birds will then be free to leave. Aviary entrances will be left open, and supplementary food will be provided should the birds return. Tiny transmitters weighing 0.3g will be attached to the tails of the fledglings prior to release so the field team can monitor their initial distribution and survival for up to 22 days.

Intensive conservation management to increase the number of fledglings produced each year was initiated in 2014 by the Mangrove Finch Project team. For the first time in the Galápagos, eggs were collected from the wild, transferred to Puerto Ayora and then captive reared. Fifteen fledglings were successfully released back into the wild in May 2014. Due to the tiny population of the mangrove finch, and with no viable technique to protect wild nests from P. downsi parasitism at present, the collection of eggs and the captive rearing of nestlings is a successful strategy that will continue.

The Mangrove Finch Project is a bi-institutional project carried out by the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galápagos National Park Directorate, in collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Galápagos Conservation Trust, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust, Galápagos Conservancy, and The British Embassy in Ecuador. Thank you also to Lindblad Expeditions and Metropolitan Touring for providing their tourist boats to help transport the eggs to the incubation facility.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Pelican Chick Growing

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One of two Dalmatian pelican chicks being hand-reared by San Diego Zoo Global gets its weight checked.

A one-month-old Dalmatian pelican is thriving under human care at the San Diego Zoo. The young bird weighs about 12 pounds and is beginning to grow feathers over its downy fluff. The youngster was brought to the Zoo to be hand-reared after the chick’s father passed away at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Animal care staff at the Zoo’s off-exhibit Avian Propagation Center will hand raise the birds for approximately 50 to 60 days, until they are strong enough to return to their flock at the Safari Park.

“He started off a little bit slow and didn’t have very good weight gain for the first 10 days,” said Beau Parks, senior bird keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “But since then he is doing very well and we have to monitor how much he eats so he does not grow too fast.”

The youngster is one of two pelican chicks being hand-reared at the Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center.  In the wild, only one nestling is reared by the parents at a time and sibling competition and aggression have been documented. To ensure the well being of both chicks, the youngsters are being raised separately by animal care staff.

The Dalmatian pelican chicks are part of the first North American breeding program for this vulnerable species. Since the breeding program was started in 2006, 32 chicks have been hatched. Because of the success, the Safari Park has sent some of the birds to the Phoenix Zoo, where a second breeding colony is being established.

Dalmatian pelicans are one of the rarest pelican species in the world and the largest of the pelican species. When they fledge at approximately six to seven months, the birds could measure five to six feet in length and have a wingspan of nine to 11 feet. Dalmatian pelicans live and nest in freshwater wetlands and rivers throughout Europe and Asia, but have gone extinct in some of their native regions. The loss of numbers is due to damage of the delicate wetland habitats that the birds rely on for breeding and raising chicks.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Rare Dalmatian Pelican Chicks Being Hand-Raised at San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center

An 11-day-old Dalmatian pelican chick gobbles its morning meal of fish at the San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center.

An 11-day-old Dalmatian pelican chick gobbles its morning meal of fish at the San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center.

The Avian Propagation Center at the San Diego Zoo has two new residents, a pair of Dalmatian pelicans—11 and 2 days old. The pair arrived at the Zoo from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, after their parents were unable to raise them upon hatching. Animal care staff at the Zoo’s off-exhibit Avian Propagation Center will hand-raise the birds for approximately 50 to 60 days, until they are strong enough to return to their flock at the Safari Park. The pelican chicks grow rapidly and should be covered in their downy feathers by three to four weeks of age.

The Dalmatian pelican chicks are part of the first North American breeding program for this vulnerable species. Since the breeding program was started in 2006, 34 chicks have been hatched. Because of the success, the Safari Park has sent some of the birds to the Phoenix Zoo, where a second breeding colony is being established.

Dalmatian pelicans are one of the rarest pelican species in the world and the largest of the pelican species. When they fledge at approximately six to seven months, the birds could measure five to six feet in length and have a wingspan of nine to 11 feet. Dalmatian pelicans live and nest in freshwater wetlands and rivers throughout Europe and Asia and have gone extinct in some of their native regions. The loss of numbers is due to damage of the delicate wetland habitats that they rely on for breeding and raising chicks.

Fish is the primary diet for the Dalmatian pelican, and they often must compete for food with fishing enterprises. In certain areas, they are hunted as a food source and for their bills, which herders use to comb horses.

Guests at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see Dalmatian pelicans in the middle of the large pond in the South African exhibit when they take the African Tram Safari.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on March 17, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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17 Real Life Angry Birds

While birds don’t feel emotion like we do, it sure seems like they do sometimes. If birds could feel human emotion, these would be the angriest.

This Guinea fowl is really not amused. 10831777_729309523832666_235296020_n

This secretary bird is tired of your lame secretary jokes.

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This flamingo is wondering what you’re looking at. 7705008540_0e704f0708_z

 

This secretary bird needs you to get off his lawn. 8497763573_f11afdfdea_z

 

This metallic starling is the original goth. All life is black (sigh)…10872535643_7ae2db3ed4_z

 

 

This burrowing owl just can’t believe it.

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Neither can this burrowing owl. Burrowingowl

 

This California condor is clearly plotting world domination. Condor2

 

You’ve got to be kidding this fairy bluebird. fairy bluebird

This kingfisher doesn’t want to have to tell you again.

Kingfisher-IonMoe

Photo by Ion Moe

 

This ornate eagle hawk kind of wants to have you for dinner.

ornate eagle hawk deric wagner

Photo by Deric Wagner

 

Nothing to see here, carrion. Ruppell's vulture

This scarlet macaw thought he had seen it all.

Scarlet macaw deric wagner

Photo by Deric Wagner

 

This Steller’s sea eagle is about to lose it. Steller's sea eagle

This secretary bird really, really needs anger management classes.

veronique augois-mann

Photo by Veronique Aubois-Mann

 

This white-naped crane is the opposite of impressed. Indian sarus crane

 

This white-necked raven needs you to pipe down, or else…white-necked raven

 

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 13 Animal Phobias for Friday the 13th.

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9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, now is a good time to learn about the birds and the bees. Although the wild kingdom doesn’t have the same romantic love approach to reproduction that humans claim, animals follow countless mating rituals that we might not even be aware of. Let’s look at a few.

Peacock| 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

photo: Angie Bell

With their fancy feathers, it’s no surprise that birds take home the prize for most exotic courting routines. It was the peacock’s train that apparently inspired Darwin’s theory of sexual selection and the evolution of esthetic beauty. Male peacocks embody one of the most impressive courting displays of the avian world, and females are rather picky about their mates. In fact, the peacock’s female-attraction power is directly related to the perfection of a male’s spectacular train, including its overall length, the number of iridescent “eyes” that are present, and even the symmetry of their pattern.

Bowerbird | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

Male bowerbirds are avian artists and spend anywhere from one week to a few months building the perfect little retreat for prospective females. These creative engineers decorate their bachelor pads with available resources, like seeds, berries, leaves, and other discarded items they can find. Many have a preferred color scheme and look for items to accommodate. Some species even use their beak or a piece of bark to paint their pad with an extra splash of color to attract a mate!

Hummingbird | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

Shiny feathers on a male hummingbird are thought to indicate good health, so these birds use their brilliant plumage to their advantage. Some species will form a lek, consisting of up to 100 males looking for a match. If a female shows interests in one of the tiny suitors, he then performs a flying dance to win her over.

Impala | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

A variety of horned mammals also exhibit unique performances during courtship. Male impalas, for instance, have a strange way of attracting females or warning off other males: they repeatedly stick their tongue out in a display known as tongue flashing.

Goat and sheep | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

Size matters when it comes to the horns on a male goat or sheep. Head-butting clashes become more violent during breeding season, and the winner typically breeds with all the females in a flock or herd. So while fighting over females is frowned upon in human relationships, it’s go big or go home with the bachelor group for these hoofed mammals.

Hippo | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

The dominant male in hippo society has the right to mate with all of his herd’s females, but gaining supremacy is a dirty job. Male hippos use their fan-shaped tails to fling their dung to attract a female and remind the herd of his territory.

Ring-tailed lemur| 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

While humans are concerned about smelling nice when attracting a potential mate, having a strong stench is a good thing for ring-tailed lemurs. During mating season, males compete for females through stink fights that involve smearing scent from glands onto their tail and jerking and swinging the tail to waft the sharp odor toward their opponent.

Elephant | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

Chivalry isn’t dead in elephant society. Adult males usually don’t live with the main herd, but during breeding season, albeit short term, these emotive pachyderms spend anywhere from one hour to a few days courting a mate.

Bonobo | 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom

In bonobo society, females take charge. Upon entering a new troop, females will breed with all the males and gain permanent membership only after giving birth. These highly intelligent primates have also been observed using sexual behaviors for social reasons other than reproduction, such as conflict resolution.

Do you have any animal mating rituals to add to our list? Share yours in the comments.

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 14 Notable Safari Park Births of 2014.