Friday, February 27, 2009

Robotic bird helps courtship study

From The Sacramento Bee:

As any good romantic comedy or steamy paperback novel will tell you, the man with the best strut, biggest biceps or fastest car doesn't always win the girl.

The same is true in the avian world, says UC Davis researcher Gail Patricelli.

To examine the role that social skills play in mating, she and her team employ a custom-built robot bird, constructed mainly of radio-controlled airplane parts, to seduce the not-so-picky male greater sage-grouse into performing its mating dance.

The fake bird, moving on model train tracks, allows the team to get a close-up view of the male's mating habits.

Bright feathers play a role in helping females decide which males will make the best mating partner, but that isn't the whole story, said Patricelli.

The goal of the research – which was presented recently at a Chicago meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – is to move beyond a simple visual analysis and really understand the conversation of courtship, she said.

With the sage-grouse, Patricelli found that it wasn't the loudest display that won, but the male that best timed his courtship display, ramping up once he had the female's attention.
Don't miss the great "Fembot courtship" video at the Bee link. Fun footage of male Greater Sage-Grouse courtship displays!



Blogger BirdingMaine said...


It's good to have minds that can think of this stuff to study birds.

February 27, 2009 4:44 PM  

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