Song Sparrows Have A Special Way of Courting

In some bird species, the male's plumage, or covering of feathers, looks very different from that of the female's. However, this isn't the case with Song Sparrows; male and female Song Sparrows look the same. Maybe this explains part of the Song Sparrow's seemingly strange courtship behavior.

A male will be singing in his territory, both advertising for a mate and defending the territory's boundaries, when he spots another Song Sparrow inside his territory. Is it a male or a female? He flies at the intruder calling with a harsh scold. As he flits near, the second bird does not fly away or counterattack, as would a male; it remains still and issues a trill- call. In such a retiring manner, the visitor announces herself as a female.

At first the male may appear to have problems accepting even a female into his territory, but eventually he stops all aggressive behavior, and the two begin moving about the territory together.

During the first days of becoming used to one another, the male greatly reduces his singing efforts, and the female remains very secretive. Once the bond strengthens to a certain point, nest-building begins. Now the male returns to singing more vigorously, starts attempting to mate, and does something extraordinary called "pouncing."

Pouncing consists of the male diving from the sky onto the female, possibly even hitting her; then he breaks into robust song,and flies away. As the male is diving, at first the female gives a trill-call, but later she changes to a scolding zhee-call. Pouncing continues until egg-laying commences. Sometimes the male pounces onto females in neighboring territories, but those females fight back or scold, and this commotion attracts the defending males, who drive the pouncing invader away.

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