2019—Whirling Dervish of the Skies
One of the most amazing and entertaining spectacles that we witnessed from the blinds in South Texas was the mating flight of the Bronzed Cowbird. One of the less charming characteristics of cowbirds is a behavior in which cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other species and leave the other birds to incubate and rear their young. I was surprised to find their elaborate mating displays with its ritual movements are almost charming enough to overlook their distasteful breeding behavior. I was lucky to photograph this event twice while in Texas. Seeing the male Bronzed Cowbird start to puff his head and shoulder feathers in the presence of a nearby female signaled me to get my camera ready. The male bird rises up a foot or two off the ground and whirls like a Dervish all the while keeping his eye on the female. The ritual lasts about 8 to ten seconds and then he drops out of the air. I was impressed. But, in both instances I photographed, the female just walked away. His efforts were for naught.
Here’s a sample of the ritual flight. Nikon D5, 500mm PF