Songbirds filmed tap dancing super fast before mating for life

In a set of motions far too fast to be captured by traditional cameras, the blue-capped cordonbleu has been found to "tap dance" their way into each others hearts. Or at least in a mating ritual that, before now, we humans didn't even realize existed. In the video you're about to see, researchers have captured one bird's mating ritual of not just dancing, but singing too – and waving around a twig in full-on performance for its mate, another of its kind. It's time to get busy.

Researchers Nao Ota, Manfred Gahr, and Masayo Soma have reported that they've found both the blue-capped cordonbleu and the red-cheeked cordonbleu (from the genus Uraeginthus) performing the dance. In their research paper published this week, they've also named the the purple grenadier, blue-breasted cordonbleu, and the common grenadier as other possible candidates for performing this dance.

It's suggested that the singing bit of this courtship exercise "be an advertisement" to all birds within earshot. The dancing piece of this puzzle, on the other hand, is made by one bird to the other bird standing next to it.

Standard-speed cameras cannot capture this movement as the taps occur faster than a single frame (during 30 or even 60-fps capture). Super-speedy cameras are used to watch the dance break out instead – super, ultra speedy.

The birds themselves can apparently see far more "frames per second" – if you want to call it that – than we humans can. They have a "higher flicker fusion threshold" than we do, according to research scientist Sue Anne Zollinger of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.

According to Zollinger, "The complex high speed foot tapping not only adds a visual component to the courtship display, but also an acrobatic element that may demonstrate how physically fit the dancer is."

"In addition, the foot taps may also add to the acoustic part of the display, like a one-man band that sings while simultaneously playing the drums."

Also, the birds that've been captured dancing like this – they're monogamous. Once a bird matches with another after they've tap-danced, they mate for life. How fabulous is that?

For more information on this subject, see the paper "Tap dancing birds: the multimodal mutual courtship display of males and females in a socially monogamous songbird" by authors Nao Ota, Manfred Gahr, Masayo Soma in Scientific Reports under code doi:10.1038/srep16614.