How do Mockingbirds find each other during mating season?

How do Mockingbirds find each other during mating season?

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Since mockingbirds imitate songs of other birds, how do they find each other during mating season? How can they tell it's a mockingbird singing, instead of other birds? Is there something in their imitations that still identifies them as a Mockingbird?

Wildlife biologist Daniel Edelstein implies as much here: he says that there are in fact variations in tone and context that distinguish mockingbirds from other birds they imitate. (He was writing about the possibility of mockingbirds attracting the birds they are imitating, which doesn't happen. I can't find much about what specifically attracts female mockingbirds, except for the variety he alludes to.)

Mapping Mockingbirds

By solving a logic puzzle, students will learn about the speciation of the Galápagos mockingbirds, a group of birds which heavily influenced Darwin's grand idea of evolution through natural selection. With all of the necessary evidence provided, your students can practice reading and constructing a branching diagram showing the evolutionary relationships among this group of birds.

By solving a logic puzzle, students will:

  1. be introduced to the family of mockingbirds specific to the Galápagos Islands.
  2. practice reading and constructing branching diagrams showing evolutionary relationships.
  3. learn that speciation is the process of forming new species.
  • Mapping Mockingbirds Student Worksheet (one 11 x 17 sheet per student pair)
  • Mapping Mockingbirds Clues (one 8 x 11 sheet per student pair)
  • Teacher Answer Sheet
  • colored pencils or markers (4 colors per student pair)
  • picture of the northern mockingbird

Using a tree from your textbook or another source (a simplified tree of the vertebrates is a classic example), pre-teach vocabulary related to tree structure: lineage, node, descendant, ancestor, diverge, species. It may also be necessary to introduce or review the difference between scientific and common names.

Print out all necessary materials. For younger grades, or to make for a shorter activity, fill in a few answers before making enough copies for student pairs.

Today, students will attempt to solve a puzzle about a group of famous birds called the Galápagos mockingbirds. Has anyone ever seen a mockingbird at their home, in school, or at the park?

  1. Show a picture of California’s resident species is the Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos. This bird is famous for singing all day, and imitating other noises, such as another birds’ song or a car alarm. You can recognize it by the white patches that show on its wings when in flight.
  2. Tell students that a few million years ago, an ancestor of this bird – which looked similar and lived a similar lifestyle – landed on the Galápagos islands. Tell a brief story about how this ancestor diversified into many species, and pass out the worksheet.
  3. Before passing out the clues, review how to read and construct a family tree, ensuring students understand the symbols in the legend.
  4. Explain how the puzzle works, pass out clues and markers, and let students work in pairs.
  5. Review the answers as a class, working through the logic together.
  1. Keeping answers open-ended, discuss with the students:
    » What do you notice about their geographical distribution?
    » What can you conclude about their evolutionary relationships?
  2. Review the branching structure of the family tree to learn how lineages are related.
    » In what order did the species branch off from an ancestor?Follow the nodes from left to right. Each signifies a divergence.
  3. Explain that the wind pattern flows from the southeast to the northwest. Notice the compass. Help students draw appropriate arrows to indicate the wind direction on their maps.
    » How is the family tree consistent with this wind pattern?Bird species on southeast islands are older, and more closely related to each other. The wind caused dispersal to the islands to the northwest, resulting in the speciation of two new mockingbirds.
  4. Suppose you were leading a boat tour around the islands, and part of your job was to act as a field guide for the passengers.
    » How would you learn to identify the four types of mockingbirds, so that you could correctly point them out to guests?Depending on which island you disembarked, you would immediately know what mockingbird is likely to cross your path, since their ranges never overlap. Or, you could remember what physical characteristics distinguish each bird, like facial markings.

For high school students, consider discussing the different evidence scientists use to construct cladograms (comparative anatomy, chromosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA, etc). To receive a copy of the scientific article on which this lesson was based, send a request to [email protected]

ancestor: an earlier organism from which others are derived a relative from the past

descendant: an organism that derives or descends from an earlier form future offspring

diverge: to branch off in two directions

endemic: naturally occurring in a certain geographic area, and not found anywhere else

lineage: a continuous line of descent from a particular ancestor

node: the point where a single lineage diverges, or branches off, into two distinct lineages

species: a group of organisms that resemble one another and can produce viable offspring

speciation: the evolutionary formation of new biological species by the branching of one species into two or more distinct ones

The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago consisting of sixteen volcanic islands located 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. They formed about 4 million years ago when a series of underwater volcanoes erupted, spewing up magma that cooled to form the cone-shaped islands. When the islands first formed they were devoid of life, but over time animal and plant species colonized them, producing the ecological communities that exist there today.

If you traveled to the islands today, you would certainly hear about the Galápagos mockingbirds, renowned for influencing Charles Darwin’s conception of the theory of natural selection. There are four species in the Galápagos mockingbird genus (Nesomimus). All are endemic to the Galápagos Islands, meaning they are native to these islands and found nowhere else in the world.

Common names:
Galápagos mockingbird
Española mockingbird
San Cristóbal mockingbird
Floreana mockingbird

Scientific names:
Nesomimus parvulus
Nesomimus macdonaldi
Nesomimus melanotis
Nesomimus trifasciatus

Whereas natural selection is one mechanism that works to change characteristics of a certain lineage over time, speciation is the change that results in a lineage actually diversifying into two or more distinct lines. With speciation, changes have occurred to such an extent that populations are no longer breeding, and we can distinguish these organisms as species distinct from each other.

Speciation requires genetic variation just as in natural selection, but often occurs due to populations becoming isolated from one another. Populations may be isolated ecologically, such as those that occupy different niches, competing for different resources at different times in different places. A bird that eats seeds on the ground during the day is not likely to cross paths with one that forages for insects in the treetops at dusk, so they will seldom meet to swap genes. Populations may also be isolated geographically, via separation by landforms, vegetations, or bodies of water. In an archipelago, meeting individuals on your own island to reproduce is less risky than flying between islands each mating season.

Current scientific studies suggest that a single ancestor in the broader mockingbird family (Mimus) colonized the islands several million years ago. Over many generations, groups of mockingbirds either flew or where dispersed by wind to other islands. Being subjected to new environments and competing with others for particular resources, the immigrants adapted via natural selection to their new home. Eventually, the distance between mockingbird populations helped solidify the speciation process. It has been suggested that the prevailing winds in the region, which blow from the southeast to the northwest, influenced mockingbird diversification by dispersing birds to the northwest. Evidence from the branching diagram supports this argument: the birds on the southeast islands are older than those currently inhabited the northwest areas, as shown by a node positioned farther back in time.

To brush up on how to read an evolutionary tree, visit the Understanding Evolution website.

Northern Mockingbird

Breeder. Common in all seasons and regions. Low Conservation Concern.

The northern mockingbird is a medium-sized songbird measuring about nine inches and weighing about two ounces. It has long legs, a long tail, and a slightly curved bill. The grayish-brown color, two parallel white wing bars and broad white wing patch, which are easily seen in flight, distinguish this bird from its cousins the brown thrasher and the catbird.

The mockingbird is a non-migrating, year-round resident of all areas of the United States, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Mexico.

It is commonly seen in short, grassy lawn areas, which they prefer when foraging for insects. For this reason, it is quite fond of suburban mowed lawns. It is not common in dense forest interiors but can be seen at forest edges.

The mockingbird is omnivorous. About half of its diet consists of arthropods, including beetles, ants, bees, wasps, and grasshoppers. It will also eat earthworms and small lizards. They are aggressive feeders that are often observed chasing down a grasshopper on a lawn, running, hopping and lunging at the prey, or flying just above the ground maneuvering behind a large wasp. The mockingbird also enjoys eating fruits, both wild and cultivated.

The mockingbird is monogamous, usually for the length of the breeding season, and occasionally mates for life. Some pairs have been known to stay together for eight years, their average lifespan in the wild. In the spring, mockingbirds can be seen performing their swift, acrobatic flights, males chasing females, often accompanied by the exchange of soft “hew” calls, repeatedly perching next to each other and taking off again. This behavior is believed to be used to assist the birds in sizing up the general health of the potential mate to make sure that it is of good breeding stock. Other behaviors observed include jumping from a perch, flapping wings to ascend three feet, then parachuting with open wings back down to the perch again.

Mockingbirds build and use several nests during the breeding season, laying two or three eggs in each nest. Nest building will usually start in March. Each pair will produce two to three broods per breeding season, with the female laying a total of about nine eggs. Broods frequently overlap, and the male cares for the fledglings while the female incubates the next clutch of eggs. The nests are built low to the ground in shrubs and trees, usually between three and nine feet high, mostly by the males using dead twigs lined with grasses and dead leaves and/or human artifacts such as paper, foil, plastics, and cigarette filters. Because the nest is usually very accessible, they are vulnerable to molestation, and nesting birds may abandon the eggs if disturbed during incubation. They will rarely abandon the nest once the eggs have hatched.

The eggs can be bluish gray or greenish white to darker shades of blue and green, and heavily marked with spots, blotches and short scrawls in various shades of brown. The female will usually incubate the eggs for 12 to 13 days, while the male forages for food and defends the territory from intruders. Both parents feed the hatchlings and defend the eggs and hatchlings against potential predators. When the chicks are about 12 days old, they will venture from the nest and hop around on the ground or in low shrubs. During this period, the young birds are still in the care of the parents, who feed them up to five times per hour for several days until they learn to forage for themselves.

Fiercely territorial, male mockingbirds have been known to recognize individual humans and will selectively attack them while ignoring other humans who pass by. During the two-week period that the nest is in use, it is best to avoid the area. Mockingbirds have extraordinarily diverse repertoires acquired through imitating the calls, songs and parts of songs of other birds, animals, human, mechanical sounds and even the sounds of other mockingbirds. Both sexes sing, but females much less than males. Two males in southern Florida were reported to have approximately 200 song types each. Male birds can often be heard bellowing their borrowed tunes late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, especially during a full moon.

Mockingbirds are natural pest controllers, consuming large quantities of beetles, ants, wasp, and grasshoppers. By eating a variety of berries and other fruit, they also assist plants by dispersing seeds. Their beautiful singing is an invaluable accompaniment in Alabama and throughout the Southeast.

Mazzotti, F.J. and Sprott, P. 2001. Mockingbirds. Fact Sheet SS-WIS-46. Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Foods and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Jeff Makemson, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

The arctic fox resides in the cold region of Alaska and the Arctic Circle. Although life is typically solitary for these wanderers, mating brings the foxes together. The courting process involves play time between the male and female. They run and frolic together, giving each other small affectionate nips. Litter size can run as high as 15, but usually seven pups are born each mating season. Like the gray fox, the male arctic fox protects and supplies food to the mother and pups while living in the den.

An illness called sarcoptic mange decimated the fox population in 1994 near Bristol in the United Kingdom. The University of Bristol studied the mating habits before and after the population change. Researchers found that red foxes were less promiscuous with a smaller fox population. Dominant females gravitated and mated with dominant males. Although promiscuity decreased, less competition within the species did not produce monogamous relationships.

How do Mockingbirds find each other during mating season? - Biology

The physiology of reproduction in the deer (family: Cervidae) can help us understand their behavior. Deer are seasonal breeders, with males exhibiting “rut” behavior in the early fall during the breeding season. The timing of the breeding season also has implications in survival of young. Different species of deer respond differently to seasonal changes. However, deer are not the only animals that exhibit seasonal breeding behavior. There are several practical implications of this reproductive phenomenon here, we will look at population control.

What Is Seasonality:
Seasonal changes in temperature, rainfall, and day length all contribute to the cause of the breeding season in deer. In climates where seasonal changes are more extreme, seasonal changes in day length are the main cue used to time the breeding season (Lincoln). Puberty occurs at approximately 16 months of age and after this, they exhibit seasonal polyestrous. Deer respond best to short-day lighting, which means that they are not usually cycling during the summer months, but begin to show estrous behavior in late September and October (see diagram below) (Gordon).

The estrous cycle in deer varies from 17 - 22 days, depending on the species, and this cyclical breeding activity may continue for as long as six months in animals which do not become pregnant (Gordon). The seasonal changes in fertility are controlled by the secretion of LHRH (luteinizing hormone releasing hormone) from the hypothalamus, which is influenced by melatonin from the pineal gland. LHRH influences the secretion of LH and FSH from the anterior pituitary (Lincoln).

Seasonality in the Male:
The season when deer breed is called the "rut". Rut usually occurs during October, but some bucks come into rut during December, these are usually younger or weaker bucks. It is possible to advance the onset of the breeding season in bucks by controlling their melatonin levels (Adam). Melatonin is a modified amino acid hormone released by the pineal gland that has been seen to control seasonality in ewes. Less daylight triggers an increase in a buck’s testosterone, which causes antler maturation/growth. Fraction, volume and pH of the ejacuate, as well as sperm concentration and sperm motility change gradually during the pre-mating, mating and post-mating seasons of red deer (Gisejewski). The period of greatest libido (from the end of September until the end October) has the highest semen quality.

Seasonality in the Female:
Female deer are short day breeders, so they generally come into estrus in the fall, from October to December (Dewey). This is triggered mainly by a decrease in photoperiod. A hormone called melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in response to the onset of darkness. When it reaches a certain level in the blood plasma it induces estrus (Webster). However, it is unclear how exactly this occurs. It is thought to be very similar to the pathway in sheep, but this has yet to be proven (Adam). In this pathway, there are high amounts of progesterone present in the deer during the anestrous season this is true for both pregnant and non-pregnant individuals, though it is higher in pregnant ones (Plotka). The high amounts of progesterone cause estrogen to have negative feedback, limiting the amount of GnRH and subsequently LH, that are produced to levels that do not support estrus. The presence of enough melatonin in the blood plasma somehow triggers progesterone levels to decrease while increasing the responsiveness of estrogen receptors. When the progesterone reaches significantly low levels, estrogen begins having positive feedback effects on GnRH production, resulting in the first LH surge (Parrish). Deer generally cycle only a few times, until they are bred and become pregnant, when the increased progesterone again causes negative feedback of GnRH by estrogen. Deer can, however, continue cycling through March, if they fail to be bred (Webster).
Seasonality of breeding is important in deer because it allows the offspring the maximum chance at survival since they are born in the spring to early summer when food is plentiful and it is not as cold out

Mule Deer
Mule deer are found throughout the entire western United States, including the four deserts of the American Southwest. These deer are also short day breeders and are polyestrous. The mating season for Mule Deer peaks in November and December. The Males will grow antlers prior to the breeding season and will often fight with other males for the right to mate with a female (Desert USA). Once the buck has found his doe, they will play chase games for several days before they will mate (Desert USA). They will then stay together for a few days after mating. Gestation is about 7 months in the mule deer. Females will give birth usually to a single fawn the first year she gives birth and will often produce twins in the following years (Desert USA).

Red Deer
Red deer are most often found in western Europe, northwest Africa, Asia and northwestern America. Males and females will live separate from each other except during breeding season, which occurs in October. Females will give birth in late spring and will have from 1-3 fawns (Charlton). One distinction that separates them from other types of deer is, the males do not use their antlers to attract mates. The males will roar to attract the females (Charlton). The roaring will affect the outcome of male to male interactions and can even advance female ovulation (Charlton). Females can distinguish the differences between the roars and they will often choose a male that has a lower roar (McComb). It is thought that they do so since males with lower roars tend to have a larger body size, which is a sign of strength and good health.

Reindeer are found in the Arctic and are seasonal breeders. Their breeding season begins in early September and lasts from 3 to 4 weeks. Some reindeer may start breeding as early as late August to accommodate the rough climate and to obtain better nutrition (Alberta Reindeer Association). The gestation period for reindeer is about seven months. Those that will breed early will start fawning in early April. The males will separate into smaller herds during the summer and will all join back up right before the breeding season. As the time for mating drwas near, several changes occur in the male: the testicles and epididymis increase considerably in size, teh velvet is lost form the antlers, the neck thickens, the stomach draws in, and they grow a mane (Alberta Reindeer Association). It is important that the males fatten up before the breeding season because they do not eat much during the season they become thin and may lose up to 1/3 of their body weight (Alberta Reindeer Association).

Roe Deer
Roe Deer are located in Scotland, the UK and other portions of Europe. Their breeding season occurs starting in mid-July and continues through mid-August. However, even though mating season occurs in August, the fertilized egg won’t begin to develop until the end of December or early January (Gaillard). It is thought that this occurs to prevent the deer from giving birth during the winter when resources are scarce (Gaillard). Young will be born in May and June and females will give birth to 1-3 young. Twins are also very common in the Roe deer. To attract mates, males will become very aggressive and will defend their territories and will often fight over a female (Gaillard).

Fallow Deer
Fallow deer are found in Europe, Asia minor and in the United States-especially in Texas (Mammals of Texas). The deer will mate from September to November, with the main breeding time occurring in October. The gestation period is seven and a half months long and fawning begins in late May and lasts through June. Usually only one fawn is born, but twins are common. During the breeding season, males mark off a territory and no other males are allowed to enter (Mammals of Texas). Females will join a male in his territory and will remain there until she comes into heat and mating occurs (Mammals of Texas). After mating season, males will abandoned their territories and will join back with other groups of males.

Comparison to Domestic Animals:

Species Type of Estrus
Deer Seasonally Polyestrous- Short day breeder
Sheep Seasonally Polyestrous- Short day breeder
Elk Seasonally Polyestrous- Short day breeder
Goats Seasonally Polyestrous- Short day breeder
Horses Seasonally Polyestrous- Long day breeder
Cows Polyestrous
Cats Polyestrous
Pigs Polyestrous
Rodents Polyestrous
Dogs Monestrus
Wolves Monestrus
Foxes Monestrus
Bears Monestrus

Practial Implications:
Understanding reproduction physiology of deer can be helpful in a variety of situations, one of which being population control. It is necessary to control deer populations for many reasons. In 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported nearly 16,000 crashes involving deer (Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation). The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports that in 2008, 84.5% of the approximately $2.1 million in appraised losses from wildlife were from deer damage. Damage to corn and soybeans accounts for approximately two thirds of this (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). Some organizations also argue that deer populations have risen to a point where the habitat can no longer support the large numbers. Another concern with a large population within an area is the high risk of transmitting disease throughout the herd. Measures that have been taken to help control deer populations include restrictions on hunting, relocating individuals, and even birth control. Both chemical and mechanical methods have been used to attempt to prevent pregnancy in deer. Estrogens or progestins, fed orally during the breeding season, have not been reliable enough to apply to an entire population. Mechanical methods have included tubes containing either an estrogen or progestin implanted subcutaneously in females. The limitation with these has been that the biological life of the implants has not been determined beyond 150 days (Matschke).

Adam C.L, Atkinson T. 1984. Effect of feeding melatonin to red deer (Cervus elaphus) on the onset of the breeding season. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility. 72: 463-466

Charlton B, Reby D, McComb,K. Female Red Deer Prefer the Roars of Larger Males. Biol Lett.2007 August 22 3(4): 382–385.

Dewey, T. and Animal Diversity Web Staff. 2003. "Odocoileus virginianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 22 Oct. 2009

“Fallow Deer” The Mammals of Texas-Online Edition. 22 Oct.2009.

Gaillard J. “Effects of age and body weight on the proportion of females breeding in a population of roe deer” Can. J. Zool. 70(8): 1541–1545 (1992).

Gizejewski, Z. 2003. Effect of season on characteristics of red deer/ Cervus elaphus L./ semen collected using modified artificial vagina. Reproductive biology. 4:1.

Gordon, Ian. Controlled Reproduction in Horses, Deer, and Camelids. Volume 4. Cab International, 1997.

Lincoln, G.A. Seasonal Breeding in Deer. Biology of Deer Reproduction. The Royal Society of New Zealand, Bulletin 22, 1985. pp. 165-179.

Matschke, George H. Efficacy of Steroid Implants in Preventing Pregnancy in White-Tailed Deer. Journal of Wildlife Management. Volume 22, No. 3 (July, 1980). pp. 756-758.

McComb K.E. Female choice for high roaring rates in red deer, Cervus elaphus. Anim. Behav. 199141:79–88. doi:10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80504-4 Deer. 22 Oct. 2009

Parrish, J.J.. Reproductive Cycles in the Female. M4A.

Plotka, E.D., Seal, U.S., Schmoller, G.C., Karns, P.D., and Keenlyne, K.D.. Reproductive Steroids in the White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis). I. Seasonal Changes in the Female. Biology of Reproduction 197716: 340-343

“Reindeer Reproduction and Breeding” Alberta Reindeer Associaton. 4 Sept. 2004 15:32

Webster, J. R., G. K., Barrell. Advancement of reproductive activity, seasonal reduction in prolactin secretion and seasonal pelage changes in pubertal red deer hinds (Cervus elaphus) subjected to artificially shortened daily photoperiod or daily melatonin treatments. J Reprod Fertil 1985 73: 255-260


The average duration of courtship varies considerably throughout the world. Furthermore, there is vast individual variation between couples. Courtship may be completely omitted, as in cases of some arranged marriages where the couple do not meet before the wedding.

In the United Kingdom, a poll of 3,000 [1] engaged or married couples resulted in an average duration between first meeting and accepted proposal of marriage of 2 years and 11 months, [1] [2] with the women feeling ready to accept at an average of 2 years and 7 months. [1] Regarding duration between proposal and wedding, the UK poll above gave an average of 2 years and 3 months. [2]

The date is fairly casual in most European-influenced cultures, but in some traditional societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with very specific formal rules.

In some societies, the parents or community propose potential partners and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited. In Japan, there is a such type of courtship called Omiai, with similar practices called "Xiangqin" ( 相親 ) in the Greater China Area. [3] Parents will hire a matchmaker to provide pictures and résumés of potential mates, and if the couple agrees, there will be a formal meeting with the matchmaker and often parents in attendance. [3] The matchmaker and parents will often exert pressure on the couple to decide whether they want to marry or not after a few dates.

Courtship in the Philippines is one known complex form of courtship. Unlike what is regularly seen in other societies, it takes a far more subdued and indirect approach. [4] It is complex in that it involves stages, and it is considered normal for courtship to last a year or longer. It is common to see a man showing off by sending love letters and love poems, singing romantic songs, and buying gifts for a woman. The parents are also seen as part of the courtship practice, as their approval is commonly needed before courtship may begin or before the woman gives the man an answer to his advances. [4]

In more closed societies, courtship is virtually eliminated altogether by the practice of arranged marriages [3] in which partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents. Forbidding experimental and serial courtship and sanctioning only arranged matches is partly a means of guarding the chastity of young people and partly a matter of furthering family interests, which, in such cultures, may be considered more important than individual romantic preferences.

Throughout history, courtship has often included traditions such as exchanging valentines, written correspondence (which was facilitated by the creation of the postal service in the nineteenth century), and similar communication-based courting. [5] Over recent decades, though, the concept of arranged marriage has changed or simply been mixed with other forms of dating, including Eastern and Indian ones potential couples have the opportunity to meet and date each other before one decides on whether or not to continue the relationship.

In the early 1800s, young adults were expected [ where? ] to court with the intention of finding a marriage partner, rather than for social reasons. In more traditional forms of Christianity, this concept of courtship has been retained, with John Piper defining courtship and distinguishing this concept from dating, stating that: [6]

Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, and then conducts his relationship with the woman under the authority of her father, family, or church, whichever is most appropriate. Courtship always has marriage as its direct goal. Dating, a more modern approach, begins when either the man or the woman initiates a more-than-friends relationship with the other, and then they conduct that relationship outside of any oversight or authority. Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal.

Christian minister Patricia Bootsma delineates this distinction, writing that in contrast to the modern conception of dating, in "courtship, time together in groups with family or friends is encouraged, and there is oversight by and accountability to parents or mentors". [7] She further states that with courtship, "commitment happens before intimacy". [7]

In America, in the 1820s, the phrase "date" was most closely associated with prostitution. However, by the Jazz Age of the 1920s, dating for fun was becoming a cultural expectation, and by the 1930s, it was assumed that any popular young person would have many dates. This form of dating was usually conducted in public places, before pre-marital sex became more socially acceptable after the sexual revolution in the 1960s. [8]

Courtship in social theory Edit

Courtship is used by a number of theorists to explain gendering processes and sexual identity. Scientific research into courtship began in the 1980s, after which time academic researchers started to generate theories about modern dating practices and norms. Researchers have found that, contrary to popular beliefs, courtship is normally triggered and controlled by women, [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] driven mainly by non-verbal behaviours, to which men respond.

This is generally supported by other theorists who specialise in the study of body language. [14] There are some feminist scholars, however, who regard courtship as a socially constructed (and male-led) process organised to subjugate women. [15] [16] Farrell reports, for example, that magazines about marriage and romantic fiction continue to attract a 98% female readership. [17] Systematic research into courtship processes inside the workplace [18] as well two ten-year studies examining norms in different international settings [19] [20] continue to support a view that courtship is a social process that socialises both sexes into accepting forms of relationship that maximise the chances of successfully raising children.

Commercial dating services Edit

As technology progressed the dating world progressed as well. In a Time-line by Metro, a statistic match-making business opened in 1941, the first reality TV dating show was developed in 1965, and by the 1980s the public was introduced to video dating. [21] Video dating was a way for singles to sit in front of a camera and tell whomever may be watching something about themselves. The process of elimination was significant because now the viewer was able hear their voice, see their face and watch their body language to determine a physical attraction to the candidates.

In online dating, individuals create profiles where they disclose personal information, photographs, hobbies, interests, religion and expectations. Then the user can search through hundreds of thousands of accounts and connect with multiple people at once which in return, gives the user more options and more opportunity to find what meets their standards. Online dating has influenced the idea of choice. In Modern Romance: An Investigation, Aziz Ansari states that one third of marriages in the United States between 2005 and 2012 met through online dating services. [22] Today there are hundreds of sites to choose from and websites designed to fit specific needs such as Match, eHarmony, OkCupid, Zoosk, and ChristianMingle. Mobile apps, such as Grindr and Tinder allow users to upload profiles that are then judged by others on the service one can either swipe right on a profile (indicating interest) or swipe left (which presents another possible mate).

Many animal species have mate-selection rituals also referred to as "courtship" anthropomorphically. Animal courtship may involve complicated dances or touching, vocalizations, or displays of beauty or fighting prowess. Most animal courtship occurs out of sight of humans and so it is often the least documented of animal behaviors. One animal whose courtship rituals are well studied is the bower bird, whose male builds a "bower" of collected objects.

From the scientific point of view, courtship in the animal kingdom is the process in which the different species select their partners for reproduction purposes. Generally speaking, the male initiates the courtship, and the female chooses to either mate or reject the male based on his "performance".

Sea turtles Edit

All animals have different courtship rituals that reflect fitness, compatibility with others and ability to provide. Sea turtles court during a limited receptive time. During the courtship males will either nuzzle the females head to show affection or by gently biting the back of her neck. [23] This may go on for long periods of time, depending on whether the female responds to the male. If the female does respond, by not fleeing, the male will attach himself onto the back of the female's shell using his front flippers. [23] He will stretch his long tail under the back of the females shell to begin copulation.

Courting can be competitive among males. The male that has better endurance will win the female. To a female, endurance is a great trait to be passed on to their offspring the higher the endurance in the male, the higher the endurance will be in her offspring and the more likely they will be to survive. [23] Female leatherback sea turtles will also choose many different males to copulate with in order to diversify their offspring, since it is known that leatherback sea turtles have female-biased offspring.

Hippopotamus Edit

Despite being aggressive animals, the female hippopotamus is very nurturing and sensitive when caring for offspring. [24] Mating and birth both occur in the water for hippopotamus. This is because it gives them privacy when conceiving and helps conserve energy during birth. The female hippo normally averages around 5–6 years, while males are average an age of 7–8. [24] During mating season the male hippopotamus will find a mate out of the herd, showing interest by smelling the female's posterior end. [25] As long as the male acts submissive during courting season, the adults in the herd will not interfere. Once the male finds the female he wants to mate with, he begins provoking the female. He then will push the female into the water and mount her. In order to alert the herd or other animals that may be lurking around, the male will let a loud wheezing sound. [25] Preceding birth, the female exhibits aggressive behavior, leaving the herd until after the birth of the calf. Although hippopotamuses can mate anytime of the year, the mating season ranges from February to August. Because the energy cost is high, the female generally only has one offspring in a two-years span. [24]

Honeybees Edit

The courtship behaviour of honey bees follows through two distinct types: apiary vicinity mating and drone assembly mating. [26] Apiary vicinity mating usually takes place in cool weather and is more local to the apiary from which the queen resides. [26] The drones are in the same apiary too, but this doen't not mean that it will lead to inbreeding. Drones assemble in a bulb of warm air close or far from the apiary. They are alert when the queen has flown out of the hive and will follow her route. This is followed by a sort of fast hum or buzz in the general bee population that follows an upward temperature gradient. [26] The male drone mounts on the virgin queen and inserts his endophallus, ejaculating semen. [27] The male honey bee will then pull away from the queen, but his endophallus will be ripped from his body and remain attached to the newly fertilized queen. The next male honey bee will remove the endophallus that was previously left by the other male honey bee and will eventually ejaculate and lose his own. [27] The frequency of mating for the male honey bees is 7 to 10 times during a mating flight. Most of the drones die quickly immediately after mating, and their abdomen rips open since the endophallus has been removed. [27] The few that survive are usually ejected from their nests, as they have served their sole purpose by mating.

They only attend one mating flight, and the queen stores up to 100 million sperm within her oviducts during this flight, but only 5–6 million are stored in the spermatheca of the queen. [27] Only a few of this sperm are used by the queen at a time to fertilize the eggs throughout her life. New queen generations will mate and produce their colonies if the queen runs out of sperm in her lifetime. The sex of the offspring is controlled by the honey bee queens, as the eggs passing through the oviduct can be determined whether they are fertilized or not by the queen. [27] Research has indicated that eggs that are fertilized develop into female workers and queens, while the unfertilized eggs become drone honey bees. Female workers can lay infertile eggs but do not mate. The infertile eggs become male honey bees. The eggs of the queen are laid in oval-shaped structural cells that usually stick to the nest ceiling. Royal jelly is then filled with these cells to prevent larvae from falling. [27] Soon-to-be workers are fed royal jelly during the first two days. The future queens are given royal jelly throughout the entire larval period. Each member colony development depends on caste. For proper growth from eggs to adult, the male honey bees need 24 days, 21 for workers and only 16 for the queens.

Insect species Edit

Certain insect species also display courtship behavior in order to attract mates. For example, the species Ceratitis capitata (also known as the medfly) exhibits these behaviors. During the courtship phase, signals are exchanged between males and females to display willingness for mating. The male begins with a series of head movements, then after 1–2 seconds of movement, also begins to fan its wings and moves closer to the female. Once the male is close enough to the female, the male will leap onto the female's back and begin copulation. Another example is seen in the spider species Maratus volans, where the male will perform an elaborate fan dance. The male will open his colorful fan and begin to vibrate in order to draw the attention of the female spider. The male will begin to move closer and closer to the female until copulation. [28]

Birds Adapt As Seasons Turn

As the seasons change, so do the feathers, songs and behavior of many of our favorite backyard birds. In the spring birds, particularly the males, are at their brightest.

The brilliant yellow of many Warblers and Finches, the bright blues of Jays and Indigo Buntings and flaming reds of Cardinals and Tanagers can't help but catch our eyes and those of the females of the flocks.

Although several species retain their distinctive colors year 'round, even those birds appear much brighter in the spring than in the fall.

Bird songs also are different at different times of the year. They too are meant either to attract a mate or stake out a territory.

In the spring birds are very vocal, and each species has a distinct song or call.

Animosity will occur between birds of the same species as males challenge each other throughout the breeding season.

Once spring turns to summer, mates are chosen, nests built, eggs laid and hatched, and nestlings demand food.

Other than territorial warnings, the birds are quieter, using all of their energy tending the nests and searching for food for their young.

Although young fledglings may look just like the adults, juveniles are easy to identify because they still beg for food.

You often see one perched next to its parents on a branch or on the lawn, standing with mouth agape and wings shivering in a begging attitude.

By late summer to early autumn, birds molt and the new feathers come in more subdued in color.

Most notable is the male goldfinch. He sheds his bright yellow breeding feathers which then are replaced by a duller olive green, making him resemble the female.

As summer wanes, adults and young of some species alter their routine and join with other families in small flocks.

For example, Tufted Titmice and Carolina Chickadees belong to the same family but often form a mixed flock that also can include Goldfinches, Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers.

Traveling together and watching each other, individuals notice when another member of the flock finds food.

Its feeding behavior leads the rest to claim their fair share.

Another group benefit is that many birds can spot danger quicker than one bird can.

By inviting the birds into your backyard, you get the opportunity to catch glimpses of their lifestyles as the seasons come and go.

You hardly need a calendar to know September has rolled around again, simply because you see the changes in your feathered friends.

Mating Habits of the White Tailed Deer

Whitetail deer are amazing animals throughout much of North America and some sections of Central and South America. Their mating season provides an opportune time for observant hunters, nature photographers and those who enjoy the the mystery and beauty of our wildlife. On the downside, mating season poses a serious danger to drivers an awareness of the mating habits can prevent serious injuries and vehicle damage.

Mating habits of the whitetail are dependent on several factors including seasonal changes weather related conditions. In general, the mating period begins as daylight decreases and the cooler fall weather begins to push out the summer heat.

Throughout the spring and summer, the does have been rearing their fawns and they remain grouped together a doe will have one or two fawns but occasionally three. Most doe will breed during their second season, however, a year old may also breed at times. The doe without a fawn is usually solitary. However, the doe will tend to group together, particularly in feeding areas, as the fawns mature and the summer begins to wane.

The bucks, on the other hand, can tend to hang together in groups of about three, enjoying the summer. In the early spring, March or April in most cases, their antlers begin to grow. The bucks antlers are a significant part of whitetail communication and the mating process.

Depending on genetics and nutrition, a whitetail buck’s antlers can grow ½ inch per day. A buck’s antlers are covered with velvet, a living tissue like skin but with fur. The velvet contains small blood vessels which help to provide nourishment to the antlers.

As the velvet begins to die in late summer and early fall, and the once fawns are old enough to venture around by themselves, a new mating season is just beginning. The time for this and many others is about mid-September. At about this time, the groups of bucks separate and become solitary. The rut, or mating season, is getting underway.

The bucks will begin to scrap trees and shrubs to remove their velvet and to mark their territory. The antlers, along with their scent, are used as a means of communication between other bucks (stay away) and to the doe (buck available). During mating season, called the rut, bucks leave many tell-tale signs about what they are up too doe know how to read these signs.

Big bucks will rub a small tree as well as a big tree and are usually the first to start younger bucks generally rub smaller trees at a later date the doe are well aware of what is happening. In some instances, there will be a lot of buck rubs in a certain small radius this could indicate the likely presence of a dominate bucks core bedding area and he is communicating this to both the does and other bucks.

Buck rubs on trees are also an indicator of a bucks direction of travel, both to and from a core bedding and feeding area, it is another means of communication between a buck and a doe during the rut or mating season. At times a buck looking for a mate will use a signpost rub, a very aggressive tree or shrub rub with deep gouges in the bark

Bucks will also use what is called the scrape to communicate with a doe and send a warning to other bucks. Basically, the buck will scrape up the ground, leave overhead signs on branches, and leave his scents on both for the doe to read. The scrapes are usually found along trails and can be up to four feet long and two feet wide. The mature buck has seven glands which are used to communicate during the entire mating season at one time or another.

One of the most amazing woodland or meadow sights to watch is the conflict between two bucks over territory or a doe. The buck’s heads clash together, often violently, and the fight can lead to serious injury and in some rare cases death to one or both.

The doe are reading the signs and watching they are cautious and attentive to their surroundings. As the doe enters estrous, she actively seeks the buck whose telltale signs have already been announced. The length of time for estrous is also dependent on weather conditions and if a doe is not bred during the first of her &ldquohot flashes&rdquo a second estrous can happen after about 28 days.

This habit during the mating season signals a lot of caution and opportunity for drivers and hunters. Both bucks and the doe during peak estrous don’t pay a lot attention as they run and frolic without regards to much else except meeting up with each other. It is a signal for both driver and hunters to use caution and be observant. Bucks in particular become obsessed with finding the doe, day or night. They will seldom stop to either eat or sleep.

Once the major rut is complete, most deer focus once again on eating and getting prepared for the long winter months. However, there can still be some mating behavior from does which were not bred during the initial phases and younger bucks.

But soon after the rut, or mating period, the bucks who once proudly displayed their antlers loose them for the the rest of the winter month. The discarded antlers, called sheds, are a signal that a rest period has begun and a new cycle or process has already begun for the next season.


Usually, there is little intra-specific variation in social breeding systems, with one form (e.g., monogamy) being commonly the only one observed in a population. This is especially the case for bird species, although, in some instances, the genetic breeding system could provide another dimension of variation [1], [2]. When individuals engage in multiple copulations, be it with different social partners or with extra-pair mates, it is thought that they seek additional fitness benefits. While it is clear that males benefit directly from breeding outside of their pairs (i.e. by increasing the number of offspring produced), the search for female fitness benefits of multiple paternity has been more challenging [3]–[5]. In many species, females do not receive obvious direct benefits (e.g., increases in reproductive success of the individual or its offspring), and thus, it is predicted that they should receive indirect genetic benefits [3].

Nevertheless, some species exhibit variable breeding systems, in which two or more types of social units occur during the reproductive season (e.g., pukeko, Porphyrio porphyrio, [6]). In these species, the outcome of sexual conflict over mating optima is more readily observed. For instance, some females might breed in socially polyandrous groups, gaining direct fitness benefits conferred by additional paternal care. Other females, in contrast, might be constrained to breeding with a single partner in monogamy. However, studies that investigated the direct benefits of additional male help in species with variable mating system have provided mixed findings. There is little evidence that the additional help provided in polyandrous groups of the ground tit, Pseudopodoces humilis [7], and of the moustached warbler, Acrocephalus melanopogon [8] is converted into fitness benefits for these polyandrous females. On the other hand, in another species with a variable mating system, the dunnock, Prunella modularis, socially polyandrous females fledge more offspring than socially monogamous ones [9]. More investigations are clearly needed to gain better understanding of what benefits, if any, females in variable mating system species gain from breeding polyandrously. Especially, a replication using the same species in a different population is likely to provide us with fresh insights.

In this study, we describe the breeding ecology of dunnocks in one population of these introduced birds in southern New Zealand (NZ). Using this information, we then investigate whether the type of social mating system affects breeding parameters (e.g., clutch size, egg volume, territory size), and hatching and fledging success of dunnocks. Our study provides important information for this species in a non-native range. Moreover, we have a unique opportunity to investigate the fitness benefits of polyandry for a species that has already been extensively studied.

Sharing Food

The reasons one bird offers food to another bird probably include:

  • Courtship : A mating ritual, sometimes in response to begging calls and wing quivering/shivering.
    • This might be to "test" the male's ability to forage and provide for young. It could be an indicator of the odds of successfully breeding. It can occur during copulation, nestbuilding and/or egg laying.
    • to reinforce or maintain a pair bond.
    • to increase a female's fitness by providing her with extra food, which probably increases the quality of her eggs or may advance the laying date.
    • "Anticipatory food-bringing" may occur in the later stages of incubation, perhaps as the male 'practices" bringing food to the young to come.
    • Also see "helping" (cooperative breeding) where individuals other than the male&ndashfemale pair help to raise a brood.
    • In some species, a subordinate bird may bring food to a dominant individual. Both birds may be the same sex. The food is often refused, and the dominant bird may even chase off or attack the subordinate. Allofeeding among adults has been observed in Florida Scrub Jays, Arabian Brown Babblers, Social Weavers, and captive Eurasian Siskins.
    • There are a few reports of birds bringing food to an injured bird.
    • In species like Titmice or Chickadees the young look almost identical to adults (sometimes they are smaller). Newly fledged young will often beg from their parents for several weeks after leaving the nest, until they are weaned and can fend for themselves.

    References and More Information:

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