Courting Time

Spring, "when a young man's fancy turns to love," or so the poets wrote. Spring is also the time for most of the courtship behavior among Michigan animals. Animals are especially visible as they dance, sing, and otherwise just act foolish.

HareThe March Hare of Alice in Wonderland was based on the old saying "mad as a March hare." March is the breeding season for rabbits and hares. Males fight to establish breeding dominance. They often look as if they are dancing or boxing as they spar with each other on their back legs. Their fighting and dashing around led to the popular metaphor. Rabbits are readily seen in backyards and open fields.

Birds offer a variety of opportunities from their various mating songs to head bobbing, wing displays, ground dances, nest building, and food offerings. Some of the most spectacular displays occur during courtship between eagles. They perform pair bonding activities through various flight behaviors. During these bond flights, they will perform a cartwheel courtship display in which the male and female lock talons and tumble towards the ground. Then at what seems the last minute, they release and soar back into the sky. Peregrine falcons also conduct similar courtship activities.

Not to be outdone are the antics of our amphibian friends. The air sac on the throat of male frogs expands to resonate their call through the wetland. It is amazing to see a frog that can puff out its neck almost to the size of its entire body. Male bull and green frogs can often be seen in wrestling matches where one tries to pin the other frog. To the victor goes the spoils or in this case the female.

Spring offers a unique opportunity to see and experience a wide variety of visual and auditory wildlife experiences. Next time you get an attack of spring fever, get out and see what the "wild" side does.