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Fleeting Wonders: A Tap-Dancing Songbird

A blue-capped cordon-bleu. (Photo: Heather Paul/Flickr)

Scientists studying the courtship behaviors of the blue-capped cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus) have discovered what Fred Astaire fans have known for decades: if you want to entice a potential paramour, nothing’s more alluring than a soft-shoe shuffle.

In their study, published in Scientific Reports, the researchers report having observed the “first example of a multimodal dance display” during the cordon-bleu’s courtship process.

While it has long been known that the male birds sing to attract females, the seductive dance moves—which include bobbing and “quite rapid step-dancing”—are a new discovery.

These slick moves were captured on a high-speed camera:

The dancing is thought to attract potential mates by producing vibrations that, when applied in conjunction with melodious singing, seal the deal. However, in the study, the birds who got extra fast and wild with their tap-dance moves were not guaranteed success in the hook-up stakes.

Researchers said that ”high-motor performance individuals were not necessarily popular among the opposite sex.”

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.