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11 of the Hottest Bird Dance Moves

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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.

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Animals
Watch a School of Humpback Whales 'Fish' Using Nets Made of Bubbles 

Just like humans, humpback whales catch many fish at once by using nets—but instead of being woven from fibers, their nets are made of bubbles.

Unique to humpbacks, the behavior known as bubble-net feeding was recently captured in a dramatic drone video that was created by GoPro and spotted by Smithsonian. The footage features a school of whales swimming off Maskelyne Island in British Columbia, Canada, in pursuit of food. The whales dive down, and a large circle of bubbles forms on the water's surface. Then, the marine mammals burst into the air, like circus animals jumping through a ring, and appear to swallow their meal.

The video offers a phenomenal aerial view of the feeding whales, but it only captures part of the underwater ritual. It begins with the group's leader, who locates schools of fish and krill and homes in on them. Then, it spirals to the water's surface while expelling air from its blowhole. This action creates the bubble ring, which works like a net to contain the prey.

Another whale emits a loud "trumpeting feeding call," which may stun and frighten the fish into forming tighter schools. Then, the rest of the whales herd the fish upwards and burst forth from the water, their mouths open wide to receive the fruits of their labor.

Watch the intricate—and beautiful—feeding process below:

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Big Questions
Why Do Dogs Love to Dig?
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Dog owners with green thumbs beware: It's likely just a matter of time before Fido turns your azalea bed into a graveyard of forgotten chew toys. When dogs aren't digging up your prized garden, they can be found digging elsewhere in your yard, at the beach, and even between your couch cushions at home. But what exactly is behind your dog's drive to turn every soft surface he or she sees into an excavation site?

According to Dr. Emma Grigg, an animal behaviorist and co-author of The Science Behind a Happy Dog, this behavior is completely normal. "When people say 'why do dogs dig,' the first thing that always comes to mind is 'well, because they're dogs,'" she tells Mental Floss. The instinct first appeared in dogs' wolf ancestors, then it was amplified in certain breeds through artificial selection. That's why dogs that were bred to hunt rodents, like beagles and terriers, are especially compelled to dig in places where such animals might make their homes.

But this tendency isn't limited to just a few specific breeds. No matter their original roles, dogs of all breeds have been known to kick up some dirt on occasion. Beyond predatory urges, Dr. Grigg says there are two main reasons a dog may want to dig. The first is to cool off on a hot day. When stuck on an open lawn with little to no shade, unearthing a fresh layer of dirt untouched by the sun is a quick way to beat the heat.

The second reason is to stash away goodies. Imagine your dog gets bored with chewing his favorite bone but knows he wants to come back for it later. Instead of leaving it out in the open where anyone can snatch it up, he decides to bury it in a secret place where only he'll be able to find it. Whether or not he'll actually go back for it is a different story. "There's a disconnect with modern dogs: They know the burying part but they don't always know to dig it up," Dr. Grigg says.

Because digging is part of a dog's DNA, punishing your pet for doing so isn't super effective. But that doesn't mean you should stand idly by as your yard gets turned inside-out. When faced with this behavior in your own dog, one option is to redirect it. This can mean allowing him to dig in a designated corner of the yard while keeping other parts off-limits, or setting up a raised flowerbed or sandbox especially to satisfy that urge. "You can get him interested in the area by burying a couple bones or some interesting things in there for him to dig," Dr. Grigg says. "I like the idea of buried treasure."

If your dog's motive for digging is more destructive than practical, he may have an energy problem. Dogs require a certain amount of stimulation each day, and when their humans don't provide it for them they find their own ways to occupy themselves. Sometimes it's by chewing up shoes, toppling trash cans, or digging ditches the perfect size for twisting ankles. Fortunately, this is nothing more walks and playtime can't improve.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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