By Ellie Duncombe
These rare birds of feather even dance together!
The hooded grebes, which were only discovered 40 years ago, have been captured on film performing an intricate ‘tango’.
The beautiful black-and-white birds, which sport a streak of auburn on their heads, were spotted splashing, twirling and diving together in their mating ritual.
The sharp movements and close intimacy of the birds makes their dance resemble a stunning tango.
Filmmaker and nature conservation volunteer Paula Webster, 64, recorded the critically endangered hooded glebes in the Argentinian Patagonia.
Describing the dance, Paula said: “‘Eyeing each other up’ a pair of birds will leave the rest of the group looking for an area of open water, a ‘stage’.
“Drifting apart, then turning to face each other they lift their heads and call loudly.
“One will swim some distance father away again face its partner. That bird will rear up and diving down, swim underwater towards the other one.
“As it surfaces, the other bird splays its wings out wide and stretches its neck close to the water, opening its mouth, a loving apparition. In unison they rise their elegant necks and embrace with seductive twists and turns, first turning towards each other, then away.
“The couple drift apart and start to jerk their necks up and down, seesaw fashion, like clockwork dolls.
“For their elaborate finale the two birds rise almost completely out of the water, stretching their heads to the sky and pirouette across the lagoon.
“My first thought was – WOW! I have never seen anything like this before, I never knew this dance happened. This is probably the first time anyone has seen the dance. I was entranced by their magical performance.”
Hooded Grebes are a very rare species and were only discovered in the 1970s.
The males and females are identical to look at.
Paula filmed them as part of a project for Aves Argentinas, the Argentinian RSPB, and produced a half-hour documentary called Tango in the Wind.
She said: “The Hooded Grebe is a highly social bird, they love each other’s company.
“They will only nest when they have found a suitable lagoon with lots of food. There needs to be at least 30-50 birds present on a lagoon in the early summertime to form a colony.
“As there are so few birds just finding each other in such a vast land is difficult.
“The days leading up to the ‘Tango Dance’ the birds call. It’s a low, fluty song that that they sing to each other.
“The actual ‘Tango dance’ lasted for about one minute. There were two or three performances each day and after three days the show finished.”
Paula has now created a 30 minute film about the Hooded Grebe. You can now view it at this link here.