Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Burp, Water-flick, Head-up-Tail-up, and Down-up

What exactly are the above, and what do they all have in common? Perhaps the images below will provide some clues ...

Drake Eurasian Teal in display mode - perhaps undertaking the so-called Water-flick manoeuvre?
Males centre many (but not all) of their elaborate actions around a single female.
In case you haven't already guessed, they are among the major communal courtship displays of Eurasian Teal. Not my names for them, incidentally, but as described in Birds of the Western Palearctic (Vol I). The weekend before last I spent a while observing and photographing them at my Rainham patch, and fascinating to watch they are too.

Birds seem relatively settled when not actually displaying, and the males show no aggression to each other.
Bum rap: the middle male's raised undertail seems aimed at the following drake, rather than any nearby female.

In all honesty, observing them in life - as I hope these few images indicate - is a far more entertaining experience than reading about them in BWP. After a while, through a repeated sequence of pseudo-foreplay on the part of the drakes, it became possible to guess the moment when one would compress his body and raise his tail to flash black and yellow, a process lasting only a second or so. What I haven't yet figured out is the heirarchy of the displaying males in this process, and the importance of the closeness and position of the female while their displays take place - are they really showing off to her benefit, or is it a bit of rival posturing? Something to figure out on the next visit.

Isn't this posture great? It seems to be the most-repeated display, and again when males are in close proximity.

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