Mating rituals same across species

By Grant McGee: Local Columnist

Grackles are everywhere around Clovis and the High Plains. They’ve been doing their “rites of spring” thing. No doubt you’ve seen these big black birds too. The males fluff themselves up, arch their wings and vibrate their feathers. I wonder what goes through the females’ minds while watching the males strut their stuff. Maybe, “Wow, I dig your dark vibrating black feathers.”

Then there’s the Western Kingbirds. They spend most of the year acting like normal birds, flitting around and such. In the spring, though, the hormones kick in and the males start chattering, flying in wild patterns and acting like they don’t have much sense (parents does this sound familiar?). You’ve probably seen them sitting on the wires at 21st and Prince, dodging cars to grab a bug or two.

Actually, the Grackles and Western Kingbirds aren’t doing anything much different than many other species on the planet, including us. The males put on displays and try to woo the ladies.

Take for instance the Wodaabe of Africa. Because of the enthusiasm and color of their rites of spring, this is my favorite of mankind’s tribes. I think we all belong to a tribe of one kind or another.

The Wodaabe are nomadic herdsman of sub-Saharan west Africa. Each year they get together for what they call a “gere wol.” Don’t ask me to translate, I just remember the term from “National Geographic.” The eligible bachelors of the tribe spend time brightly making up their faces, decorating their clothing and bodies and dancing for seven days. Eligible bachelorettes choose their partners based on decoration, whiteness of teeth and the ability to move one eyeball around independently of the other. I’m not making this stuff up.

Another of my favorite courting rituals is the fiesta dance from the interior of Mexico. Senoritas would form a circle in the center of the village square then the young senors would form a circle around the ladies. Music would play and the circles would move in opposite directions, dancers catching the eye of a likely suitor. I understand this sort of courting ritual has faded away, maybe even disappeared.

Watching The Learning Channel (TLC) one time I learned of the ancient drives that make us act the way we do when it comes to courtship including the things we do here in the U. S. A. For instance, young ladies are generally drawn to successful young men because there is a subconscious thought of, “This man would be a good provider for my children.” So there’s no mystery as to why the young guys spend money on flashy vehicles, designer clothes and stuff. Young men are drawn to attractive women because there’s a subconscious thought of, “This woman would be a good mother to my children.” This is apparently why young ladies spend time accentuating their womanly attributes. It’s all about children, survival of the species and all that whether those involved know it or not.

So somehow, there’s not much difference between those Grackles shaking their feathers and strutting for their potential mates and young guys with shiny new pickups or cars.

Makes me think if I’d figured this out when I was young it might’ve saved me a bit of trouble.

But then I wouldn’t have had as much fun.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: