We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Hooded Grebes Are Bringing Sexy Back—Or Trying To

By Amy Klinkhammer
Sep 22, 2017 8:56 PMNov 20, 2019 1:53 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Love is a battlefield, and in the case of the hooded grebe, that battle takes place on the dance floor. These endangered freshwater divers have a mating ritual that is not only extremely intricate, but also highly entertaining. And lucky for us, we now have it on film. Not much is known about the hooded grebe, Podiceps gallardoi, as these aquatic birds were discovered only 43 years ago in the frigid waters of Patagonia. Though they tend to keep to themselves, footage of them is incredibly rare, and what was just recently released is quite revealing, to say the least. The birds’ dancing rituals include rigorous displays of head banging, sporadic diving and some pretty intense stare-downs, but showmanship is only one aspect of these passionate performances. As it turns out, grebes are rather picky when it comes to choosing their partners. So aside from earning attention from prospective mates, these showdowns also allow the birds to critique each other's choreography in an attempt to find the fittest partners—those with the sickest moves. According to the report released by BirdLife International, suitors with more rhythm, stamina and coordination tend to fare better than those who, well, flap to their own beat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hoL93tEkrM

Critical Steps

As wild and whimsical as these mating rituals may seem, those involved are actually in a grave predicament. Hooded grebes are critically endangered, and their numbers have been on the decline year after year. It is estimated that only 400 mate-pairs remain. American minks were introduced to Patagonia during the height of mink-fur’s popularity in the 1930s, and the invasive species has become enemy #1 for grebes. A few minks escaped from traders by accident, and flourished without predatory competition. They’ve wreaked havoc on the birds ever since. Efforts to control mink populations, and to prevent further human interference like commercial fishing and corporate dam construction, are just a few small steps toward saving one of nature’s more theatrical species.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.