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Songbirds Perform Lightning Speed Tap Dances To Court Mates [VIDEO]

Nov 20, 2015 02:48 PM EST
Uraeginthus cyanocephalus
Songbirds appear to use a lightning speed tap dance during courtship displays.
(Photo : Nao Ota)

Songbirds appear to use a lightning speed tap dance during courtship displays. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Hokkaido University recently caught the birds' fancy footwork on tape using high-speed video cameras and the video is going viral on the Internet.

"The tap dancing is very fast and is completely invisible to the naked human eye," Masayo Soma, one of the study researchers from Hokkaido University, told Discovery News. "Even a normal digital video camera cannot capture their motion, as the tapping is quicker than one frame."

In the recent study, researchers observed socially monogamous songbirds known as blue-capped cordonbleus (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus) – a waxbill species native to sub-Saharan Africa. In total, eight males were paired with eight females randomly for multiple two-hour sessions, totaling over 200 hours of footage. From this, researchers discovered both males and females perform courtship displays, including rapid step-dancing, which researchers believe produces vibrations or non-vocal sounds. Additionally, the birds would sometimes rhythmically wave a twig or other nesting material to get their mate's attention when dancing. (Scroll to read more...)

"It's a really rare phenomenon that songbirds produce non-vocal sounds," Soma explained. "Some species produce non-vocal sounds with their wings, but they usually don't use their feet."

Furthermore, their findings suggest the tap dances actually add an element of attraction to their routine courtships because each bird's dance became more vigorous if its mate was on the same perch. More simply, this implies the rat-a-tat musical accompaniment to the bird's song may just be targeting multiple senses linked to increased attraction.

"It is very astonishing," Manfred Gahr, co-author from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, added. "Maybe more birds are doing it, but it just has not been seen."

Their study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports

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