Watch a Goofy Bird Do a Hopping Dance to Attract a Mate - Atlas Obscura
Our new kids' book is on sale! Shop now.

Watch a Goofy Bird Do a Hopping Dance to Attract a Mate

Male Jackson’s widowbirds go through a complete transformation to find a special friend.

Everything about this Jackson’s widowbird’s flashy display is in the interest of attracting the ladies. During breeding season, the black-feathered males of this small, finch-like species can be seen bobbing up like pogo sticks from tall grassy savannas in southern and eastern Africa.

While this bird’s long glossy tail and sleek black feathers stands out in the field, male widowbirds actually spend most of the year with murky brown plumage. Growing that long down-curled tail takes a lot of energy and grooming—the extra plumage makes them 40 percent heavier than females, who have brown plumage year-round.

In addition to primping up their appearance, the rest of the Jackson’s widowbirds’ mating ritual is quite elaborate. A male widowbird will create a little stage for his dancing performance by clipping down the tall grass to form a three-foot-wide circle and defend the territory from other males. He’ll leave a small patch of grass in the center of the circle as a platform where he will proceed to hop up and down. You can see the widowbird in the video jumping up repeatedly to show off the length of his tail while singing a soft call to lure females.

There are several other bird species that are known for having dancing displays. For example, male blue manakins group together in a line for a flying show, while the tap dancing blue-capped cordon-bleu does a series of rapid step-dancing to attract mates.

For extra amusement, check out this flying Jackson’s widowbird as it drags around its long fluttering tail. 

Every day we track down a Video Wonder: an audiovisual offering that delights, inspires, and entertains. Have you encountered a video we should feature? Email ella@atlasobscura.com.