Mar 22 2010
In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love — Alfred Lord Tennyson
And so it is with birds.
It’s really spring now. The raptors are courting and laying eggs, robins are singing as they migrate home and pigeons are billing and cooing.
“Pigeons?” you say. I’m not a great fan of pigeons but they’re the urban peregrines’ major food source so I’m rather fascinated by them. And they’re easy to observe.
Who hasn’t seen a male pigeon puff his throat, fan his tail and coo and strut circles around his lady? Sometimes he drives (chases) her to separate her from the other males. This seems promiscuous, but pigeons mate for life. They’re just doing the ritual to “get in the mood.”
Mated pairs also preen each other in courtship and like many birds the male feeds his mate. Columbids feed their young by regurgitation, so they touch bills to offer food. When you see pigeons billing and cooing, the male is demonstrating he’s a good provider.
Pigeons also do a courtship flight display which you can hear. The male flies out, clapping his wings three to five times on the upstroke (yes, he smacks the upper side of his wings together) and then glides with his wings in a V.
Birds of North America says this wing-clapping is usually a post-copulatory display.
I’m hearing it a lot lately. Yes, the pigeons’ fancy has turned to thoughts of love.
(photo by Aomorikuma via Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free License)