7 July 2020
For such a tiny shorebird, male piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) have an elaborate courtship dance. The best part of it — the “tattoo” — was tweeted last Friday by the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program.
You might hear about fancy mating dances done by birds in the tropics. Piping Plovers have one too! Goose stepping (tattooing) is a courtship dance done by the male right before copulation. The female rejects or accepts this dance! ? Video by Plover Lovers pic.twitter.com/0zyKH54fgW— Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program (@ontarioplovers) July 3, 2020
There’s more to the dance than that. In the run-up to copulation the male …
- Calls to his mate while scraping a nest in the sand, tossing away twigs and debris.
- Approaches her in a low gliding crouch with his head below the horizontal.
- Pauses near her, raises his head up high and beats a tattoo with his feet, faster and faster, closer and closer.
- When he’s ready he mounts, still moving his feet up and down while on her back. He may stay in this position without copulating for more than a minute.
- After or during copulation he may grab her by the nape of the neck. Though this looks vicious she doesn’t seem to mind.
- And then they walk away and preen.
You can see all of these behaviors in this longer video from Montrose Beach, Illinois.
If all goes well, the dance results in some very cute baby birds.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)