If you think you have some sweet dance moves, just wait until you see these birds. Warning to female birds: This list contains erotic content and is NSFB(ird)W.
1. GREATER SAGE-GROUSE (CENTROCERCUS UROPHASIANUS)
The courtship display of the greater sage-grouse has to be seen to be believed. Male birds fluff up their ruffs and fan their spiky tail feathers. They waggle their heads seductively and inflate the suggestive yellow air sacs on their chest, which produce bizarre dropping-and-popping sounds.
2. ANDEAN FLAMINGO (PHOENICOPTERANDINUS)
Flamingos are incredibly social birds. They do everything together—even find mates. The flock forms a single mass and begins mincing across the salt flats. Each bird is watching the others, looking for a partner. Eventually they’ll all pair off and go do their pink romance thing.
3. SUPERB BIRD-OF-PARADISE (LOPHORINA SUPERBA)
These birds are not subtle in their courtship. Most intense may be the male superb bird-of-paradise, which transforms its body into a goofy iridescent mask and hops aggressively in a potential mate’s face.
4. WESTERN GREBE (AECHMOPHORUS OCCIDENTALIS)
The mating dance of the western grebe has long been a source of fascination for scientists and bird lovers. Courting grebes pull off a technique called rushing, in which they sprint as far as 66 feet across the water’s surface. They manage this by taking up to 20 steps per second.
5. RED-CAPPED MANAKIN (CERATOPIPRA MENTALIS)
It may not be “Thriller,” but it’s still bad (in an MJ kind of way): Male red-capped manakins perform a hilarious moonwalk-type dance to impress potential mates. They also make a range of sounds—buzzes, whirrs, and snaps—that may attract females and warn off rival males.
6. VICTORIA’S RIFLEBIRD (PTILORIS VICTORIAE)
It’s hard to miss a Victoria’s riflebird. In addition to their loud calls and their interpretive-dance-type mating display, the wings of male birds make an unmistakable rustling sound in flight.
7. BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY (SULA NEBOUXII)
It’s not easy being blue. Boobies have to devote a lot of resources to keep their feet vibrant, which means that brighter feet are usually a good indication of healthy birds. And wooing boobies aren’t shy about showing off; during courtship, they actually wave their feet at each other to make sure all that work doesn’t go to waste.
8. FLAME BOWERBIRD (SERICULUS AUREUS)
The courtship behaviors of bowerbirds are legendary, but most of the attention is focused on their beautiful bowers. Somewhat less appreciated is the Barry White–level of bird sensuality in the dance of the male flame bowerbird, which undulates slowly while maintaining an uncomfortable level of eye contact (well, uncomfortable for me—the female birds must love it, or they wouldn’t keep doing this).
9. BLUE-CAPPED CORDON BLEU (URAEGINTHUS CYANOCEPHALUS)
Blue-capped cordon bleus are the all-singing, all-dancing players of the finch world. Male and female birds alike are a triple threat: They bob their heads, sing, and tap dance at top speed, often all at the same time.
10. LAWES’S PAROTIA (PAROTIA LAWESII)
Male Lawes’s parotias (also known as six-wired birds of paradise) spare no expense when it’s time to strut their stuff. Not only do they stage fantastic, funky displays like the one shown above, but they also strategically decorate their performance spaces with trinkets and desirable objects like shed snake skins and pieces of chalk.
11. SNOWBALL THE SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOO (CACATUA GALERITA)
No list of dancing birds would be complete without Snowball. The head-banging cockatoo became an instant celebrity in 2007 when his foster keeper caught him dancing to the Backstreet Boys. Was Snowball really dancing, in the truest sense of the word? A neurobiologist subjected the bird to a battery of dance tests. The verdict: Yes, Snowball can dance, although he's pretty bad at it.