Courtship Strategies (What We Can Learn From Animals)

Creativity is the Key

When Johnny comes a-courting, what does he do? - wears his best shirt, puts on cosmetics, sprays perfume, sings love songs, writes poems, gives gifts and creates other ways just to win the heart(s) of the opposite sex. If we think us human beings have patented courtship strategies, think again. Animals are far more creative!

In the animal world, the dictum is – “thou shalt ensure fertilization!” And different animal groups go through great lengths just to follow this dictum. Many animals use all their senses and then some when exhibiting courtship behavior.


bird display

peacock display
peacock display
Egret showing aigrette    photo from:http://www.photozoo.org/d/18801-6/Aigrette+garzette+1.JPG
Egret showing aigrette photo from:http://www.photozoo.org/d/18801-6/Aigrette+garzette+1.JPG

Colors and Light Display

Just like human beings, animals have exploited the sense of sight to ensure that they will find the right mate. Foremost is the magnificent display of the peacock. Peahens always choose to mate with the peacock that has the most stunning set of tail feathers. Male birds are thus constantly preening themselves to keep their feathers well-oiled, with not a strand out of place (reminds us of males always fixing their hair every time they see a mirror, right?). The idea is that those with beautiful feathers are healthy and have good genes that can be inherited by the young.

Some birds like the egret even produce special lace-like plumage called aigrettes during breeding season. The plumage is so beautiful that it not only attracts the female egrets but also hunters that stalk and kill these birds to make money from the plumes. These birds are now close to extinction.

The male bird of paradise displays not only for the females during breeding season, but also for other male birds.

When it is breeding time, all male birds gather in a common display area called lek. In this area, the male birds choose their favorite perch and make their feathers more stunning as more males arrive. There is competition for the female birds’ attention. The dominant male in the group always has the best perch in the lek and all other male birds cluster around this dominant male. Female birds visit the lek and select a mate. The pair then leaves the lek and builds a nest for their eggs. The remaining male birds will again scramble for the best perch in the lek.

Night animals like the fireflies excite the sense of sight by light and color display. Male fireflies when flying around to seek a mate use flashes of light (like the Morse code). The pattern of flashes differs for various species of fireflies. Female fireflies, if interested, will use the same flashes to communicate their readiness for the male. Some species even use different colors and intensities of light to signify their intentions.


red-eyed tree frog photo from: http://www.frogsite.org/pic/Redeyed_Tree_Frog.jpg
red-eyed tree frog photo from: http://www.frogsite.org/pic/Redeyed_Tree_Frog.jpg

Call Me

If animals cannot produce color or light, they use sounds to call the attention of their potential mates. We are familiar with the call of the male frogs during rainy season. Each frog species has a different call – “kokak,” “moo,” “ribbit” just to name a few. If you listen to sounds after a heavy rain, you will hear even greater variations. Females do not make sounds but will go to where the sounds come from and choose their mate from among the “singing” males.

Of course, birds are also known for their calls (songs)! The song is not only a call for mating but also a signal for range of territory. Birds thus identify each other not just by their feathers but also by their calls.

Though serenade or “harana” (in the Philippines) is a dying courtship ritual in human society, it remains very much alive among birds and frogs and even insects.

Touch Me

The senses of touch and taste are extensively used by salamanders, snails, insects and fishes.

A female tiger salamander touches a male on its tail with her nose. This signals the male to release a package of his sperms which the female then picks up and inserts into her genital opening. A second sneaky male salamander however may push himself between the pair and drop his own packet of sperms on top of the other male’s sperms. The female then unknowingly picks up the top pack and leaves behind the sperms of her chosen male. (Sounds like some story line in a movie?).

The record for longest courtship & copulation ritual in the animal world goes to several species of snail. The ritual involves a lot of touching-tasting-rubbing actions that can last up to six hours! (Care to try beating that!).

Actually, snails are hermaphrodites – that is, a snail has both male and female reproductive structures. However, two snails go through that marathon ritual as they exchange sperms that will be used to fertilize their own eggs. Why go through the process if they can do it on their own? This is to create diversity in the snail world. Also, how exciting would that be?


Love Is In the Air

The sense of smell is another potent instrument of courtship. Animals release chemicals called pheromones that serve as signals to potential partners. This time, it is the female partners that produce distinctive smells that indicate their reproductive state. The smell intensifies when female lions, cats, dogs and other mammals are in their fertile state.

You are probably familiar with male dogs in your neighborhood that congregate in your house if you own a female dog that is in heat. This is because the pheromones of fertile females are carried by air up to about a kilometer radius.

Male moths have elaborate antennae that can pick up the pheromones released by female moths even from long distances. They then follow the scent until they find the female source. However, some male moths like the summer fruit tortrix, when they pick up the scent of a female tortrix, release another scent to confuse other males. Then they gain a head start over the other males in finding the signaling female.

weaverbirds' nests photo from: http://www.junglephotos.com/africa/afanimals/birds/weavernest.shtml
weaverbirds' nests photo from: http://www.junglephotos.com/africa/afanimals/birds/weavernest.shtml

All I Have to Give

Gift giving during courtship is not exclusive to human beings. It is quite common in some species of birds, fishes and insects.

The male weaverbird for example builds a nest to entice the female to choose him as mate. When a female approaches the nest, the male bird then makes some fluttering movements to display his colorful feathers. If the female finds the nest fresh & strong, then she will enter the nest. But if the nest is not fresh and strong (the female will actually test this by pulling at it), then no matter how colorful the display of the male is, the female will just ignore him.


Female angler fish with attached male (arrow) photo from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglerfish
Female angler fish with attached male (arrow) photo from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglerfish

Cling to Me

Some animals likewise use force and even deception (just like some “human” beings?). But the most enterprising behavior any animal has ever developed is that of the male angler fish. When a male angler fish finds a female, he bites into her body and burrows inside. Then the male’s body shrinks but his testes will enlarge. So now, you have a dwarf male with enlarged testes permanently attached to the female. When breeding season starts, the male delivers his sperms directly to the female’s eggs. I am sure no human male will ever think of doing that – living attached to a female and being reduced to a mere sperm generator, that is! Or am I wrong?

And so when Johnny comes a-courting and is having some difficulty getting his love’s attention, studying animals might teach him a thing or two to add to his repertoire of courtship strategies. What do you think?


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Comments 56 comments

Susana 7 years ago

This is so cool! :)


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Thanks very much Susana. Leaving a comment is cool too!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Very nicely done and exceptionally informative. Loved the subtitles.


ajpareja 7 years ago

hi doctora! we miss you a lot! you know what, we are in first year of med school already in ateneo and just had histology lectures and lab. it was really funny cause in the lab, all of us biology graduates did the work really quickly (and of course correctly) almost effortless pa nga eh while the others were freaking out since they cant find the said parts hahaha

iba talaga pag naturuan niyo, ang gagaling namin sa histology so far hahaha :P


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

This is very cool! Have you seen that TV commercial where the dog keeps bringing gifts to a female and she keeps ignoring him until he digs up his favorite bone and brings it to her? Very funny. Thanks for the fine Hub!


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Jerilee,

Thank you very much for your inspiring comment.

All the best!


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi AJ,

It's good to hear from you and to know that you and batchmates are doing well. I'm glad our lessons in Histology are helping you. You make me proud!

I miss you too!


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi James,

Thank you for dropping by. I always appreciate your comments, they make me happy.

No, I have not seen the commercial. Maybe it's only there in the US. But that's a good one anyway.


Audie 7 years ago

Very interesting...I learned a lot. Thank you for bringing this post to my attention.


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Audie,

Thank you very much for dropping byand leaving a comment. I know you love pets and animals.


Jason 7 years ago

This is so neat! Maybe I could try one of those methods, especially the snail! Hehehe...


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Jason,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Ha ha ha...dare you to try the snail way!


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado

Interesting information! The information about the snails was new to me. (-;


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi KatieE39,

Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad you found something interesting.


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago

Wow great; even I have fallen in love with them! Lovely! And very interesting strategies. =)


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Charia,

Thanks very much. Animals can really teach us a thing or two. Right?


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago

Yes I agree with that, even more! =)


cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 7 years ago from North Carolina

Nice Hub, wish I had all these tips when I was in college, had to trial and error :)


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Charia,

Nice to have you back!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello cgull8m,

Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment. Ha ha ha, it's never too late to try them!


Leptirela profile image

Leptirela 7 years ago from I don't know half the time

I love animals, I also agree with you 'WE do Have a lot to learn from them' ... they put us to shame (:...but I love the way you explain things ....this is great :)


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Leptirela,

Thank you very much for the visit and for your kind words!


jayb23 profile image

jayb23 7 years ago from India

Awesome Jill, thanks for sharing this info. The pics that u have used are so brilliant.


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello jayb,

Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving a heartwarming comment.

All the best!


LRobbins profile image

LRobbins 7 years ago from Germany

I love this hub! Fascinating info, who knew that salamander or fish sex could be so interesting!


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello LRobbins,

Thank you very much! Yes, we can learn so much from animals! Their behavior is really so interesting.


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 7 years ago from san diego calif

Jill this Is fantastic ! I guess now I am gonna have to Invest In some feathers ! Anyway this hub was better then watching National Geographic . Good Job Jill !


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the visit and for your wonderful comment! Comparing my hub to a National Geographic episode is really music to my ears. Thank you kindly sir!

So you want to imitate some of our feathered friends? Why not?


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 7 years ago from san diego calif

Jill ya gotta live a little , know what I mean ? Feathers could be a good look ! :D


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jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines Author

Right on Tony! Wonderful!


Eastern Rainbow profile image

Eastern Rainbow 7 years ago

hello i'm you newest fan. hope you fan me too


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jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Eastern Rainbow,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Check your fan mail, I already did.

God bless.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Hi, nice to meet you . Glad I found this amazing hub so well written and informative. I will be reading more of your hubs in the future. thank you for sharing it with us.


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jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello D.A.L. - nice to meet you too! I am happy that you got something out of this hub. That's great! Yes, please do read my other hubs. I gladly welcome you and your comments. I'll also check out your own hubs.

Thanks for visiting and leaving a wonderful comment.


heart4theword profile image

heart4theword 6 years ago from hub

Great hub! Your pictures and your title go well together:)


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jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Heart4theworld - It's nice to see you again!

Thank you very much for your wonderful comment!


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States

Very Interesting!


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jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Angela,

Thanks for the visit and upbeat comment!

God bless!


Healing Touch profile image

Healing Touch 6 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

Jill of all trades- Brilliantly done. You really did a great job researching the way animals woo other animals. That picture of the fish was great.

Healing touch


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jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Healing Touch,

Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving a heartwarming comment! I really appreciate it.

Hope to see you again!

God bless!


CkhoffmanK profile image

CkhoffmanK 6 years ago from Las Vegas

This was a really really really good read. I enjoyed immensely. Not enough good animal pieces like this one!


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jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello CkhoffmanK,

Thank you very much! Coming from an accomplished writer like you, that is really most heartwarming!

I'm happy you enjoyed it.

God bless!


SydFletcher profile image

SydFletcher 5 years ago from Slovenia

very interesting and beautiful hub! nice work! :)


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jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Syd,

Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving a beautiful comment!

God bless!


Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

Ask_DJ_Lyons 5 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

The pictures are great! Thanks for sharing!


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jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Thanks very much Debbie.

Sorry for the late reply. I had no chance to get near a computer for the past few days.

See you!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Very interesting and entertaining hub about the mating practices of animals. I particularly like the way you compared these practices to the way male and female humans relate to each other. Thanks for sharing.


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jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Happyboomernurse,

It's good to see you again!

I'm happy that you enjoyed this hub. Yes, we can indeed learn a thing or two about courtship strategies from animals.

Thanks for the visit!

God bless


herbert 4 years ago

Nice and strategic


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jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Herbert,

I'm happy that you think so. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

God bless!


Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 4 years ago from California

I love when we have the opportunity to learn from animals. So simple and pure.. just as we all should be. Very well done and beautiful pictures. Thumbs up! Lisa


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jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Lisa,

What a beautiful thing to say! Thank you very much! Yes, we can really learn so much from animals. I have several more hubs on animals. Please check them out if interested.

God bless!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

What a useful and entertaining article!


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jill of alltrades 2 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Audrey,

So happy that you think so. Thank you very much!


DealForALiving profile image

DealForALiving 2 years ago from Earth

Comb your hair and put on something nice; look your best like the peacock.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 2 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello DealForALiving,

How right you are! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a nice comment!

God bless!

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