Mar 10 2011
Courtship is well underway among Pittsburgh’s resident birds.
On sunny days red-tailed hawks seem to be everywhere, soaring to claim territory and court their mates. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between courtship and chasing. Is he driving away an intruder or impressing his mate? And, my heavens, his scream sounds scary! (Read more about red-tail courtship here.)
Because I love watching peregrines and hawks, I often pay attention to their favorite food: pigeons. That’s how I noticed that rock pigeons make courtship flights, too.
Most of pigeon courtship occurs on the ground but there are two flight behaviors that tell you they’re courting.
The first is wing clapping in which a pigeon takes off from the flock making a loud snapping sound as he claps his wings together at the top of his upstroke. This behavior is usually initiated by a male to advertise his sexual maturity. His action often prompts other members of the flock to take off and clap their wings as well.
The other display occurs when a pair breaks off from the flock in flight. Eventually one or both will soar with their wings held upright in a stiff V.
I’ve sometimes seen a trio break away and fly together but only two of them do the V flight. I’ll bet these trios are one female with two males and the guys are trying to impress her. It certainly looks less dangerous than what red-tails do!
(photo from Shutterstock)