5 Impressive Colorado Bird Courtship Behaviors

Written By: Sarah Girton

Spring is not too far off, and the birds know it! Now is the time to put on your very best courtship display, so that the females of your species know that you’ve got the strength, looks, and means to help her raise this year’s broods.

So let’s take a look at some of the courtship displays that our native Colorado species put on to attract a mate!

Red-winged Blackbird

This bird’s mating display is one of my favorites, partly because their trill is one of the quintessential sounds of summer. Around most wetlands in the US, especially those with lots of tall reeds and cattails, you will see and hear this bird proclaiming his territory to rivals, while simultaneously extending an invite to any females in the vicinity.

Red-winged Blackbirds do not pair off during mating season. Instead the male can have as many as 15 females in his territory. He will protect the females, nests, and young from intruders, but does not take a very active role in raising young.

Here is a beautiful example of these territorial behaviors:


Hooded Merganser

Starting as early as February for some regions, Hooded Mergansers will begin their courtship displays. Males will take full advantage of that large, black and white crest. Swing their head backward and forward, while making a low croaking noise.

Here is another male who is not very involved with raising young. As soon as the female begins building a nest in which to lay her eggs, he leaves.

Watch these interesting mating displays below:


Bald Eagle

If ever there was an award for the most dramatic mating display, the Bald Eagle would take First Place. Courting behaviors between a male and female include swooping, chasing after each other, diving….and the infamous death spiral. Locking talons, the two birds will free fall, spinning round and round, and finally breaking free from each other just before hitting the ground. Indeed, it is a rather poetic display of the tempestuous fragility of life. 

Bald eagles famously mate for life. Both take up all of the responsibilities of chick-rearing.Watch below:


Sandhill Crane 

Elegance! Romance! Dead grass throwing! This one seems so fun to me. The pair will hop around, flap their enormous wings, and call out to each other. This behavior not only establishes a relationship between two Sandhill Cranes, but throughout their partnership it serves to strengthen it.

These birds are very social. Mated pairs will stay together and raise their chicks as a family, and larger groups of multiple families tend to hang around each other all year.

Watch this happy display below:


Black-chinned Hummingbird

The name of the game with all hummingbirds is showmanship.When courting a female, The Black-chinned males will flash their colorful gorgets, and perform spectacular aerial stunts to prove their physical fitness. Male hummingbirds in general take no part in raising their offspring. All incubating, feeding, and rearing duties fall to the female.

I could not find a very good video of their mating display, but this one shows the “figure-8” flying pattern that many hummingbirds perform:



House Finch

For fun, I have to include the house finch mating display, because I am partial to this bird, and because the male’s dance is just too adorable. I’ve witnessed this many times in my own yard and I never grow tired of it! I especially love that the male in this video stops to eat mid-dance…I guess we all need to refuel from time to time…

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