Maintaining a collection rich in species diversity gives us a tremendous opportunity to observe many unique behaviors during the breeding season. From the range in courtship displays to the nesting habits of certain birds, this time of year never ceases to amaze me.
One of the newest additions to our aviaries, the Western capercaillie, has an incredible courtship ritual and finally being able to see it in person is truly a sight, and sound ( a cork-popping, muffled pig grunt), to behold. As I have seen in many videos, when the males are displaying, they are virtually fearless and in their eyes, a human is no match for their physical prowess. That behavior has shown to hold true here at the Aviary. Keepers are always met at the aviary entrance by the males who are just waiting to be tested. This aggression in the breeding season is normal for this species. Males hold territories, or lekking grounds, in the wild and defend them against rival males. Fights among the males are fierce and often times to the death. Males can, and will, breed with multiple females and the window for female solicitation of the males and subsequent successful copulation is short. Here, we keep 2 males and 1 female. Each male has his own aviary, or “territory”, to hold and defend. The female is allowed access to both via a passage door that only she can fit through. This allows her a safe route of escape should either of the males become too much to bear. She has shown an interest in both males and we are anxious to see what the season will bring us from these magnificent birds!