Shake your tail feathers
Plumage that gets birds noticed
With vivid colours and extravagant feathers, these birds certainly know how to put on a show
in their energetic courtship displays
From the fancy spiral-shaped feathers of the Wilson’s bird-of-paradise, to the iridescent eye-patterned feathers of the peacock, for most birds it’s all about looks when it comes to finding a mate. While feathers are traditionally used for flight and to trap pockets of air close to the bird’s body to keep it warm, several species have adapted some extraordinary feathers, which they use to show off during the breeding season.
Courtship displays often involve dances or ritualised movements and vocalisations, which emphasise the bird’s fitness, strength and beauty to a potential partner. These extremely intense displays require a lot of energy and are performed by males to attract the attention of a female, so it is no surprise that (for all but one species) it is only the males who boast these showstopping feathers.
Whether its wagging their feathers back and forth like the turquoise-browed motmot, flipping them up overhead like the superb lyrebird, or flying with them draping down like the long-tailed widowbird, these birds will go to extreme lengths – in some cases literally – to display their suitability as a mate. These performers demand centre stage.
Territory Native: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Introduced: Australia, the Bahamas, Hawaii, New Zealand,
diet Frogs, lizards, snakes, insects, worms, flowers, nuts, seeds, leaves, roots and grains lifespan 10–25 years
adult weight 2.7–6kg