Pied Avocets, Black-Winged Stilts and thousands of other waterfowl have flocked to the Agulhas Plains after the recent heavy rains turned the area into a vast marshy wetland. Breeding activity is at a peak and this sequence of photographs shows the pre-copulatory display of Pied Avocets.
This pair of Pied Avocet were feeding in a shallow pan, when their highly ritualized mating display was initiated by the female lowering her head and neck parallel to the water and her uttering a soft piping call.
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This encouraged the male to sidle up to the female and rub his head against the female before beginning with exaggerated pseudo-preening.
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As the intensity increased, the male would swipe his bill across the back of the female and move close behind her and to her other side, where the process was repeated.
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After about a minute of this pseudo-preening, the male stepped things up by splashing and duck-diving his head next to the female.
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The male then climbed sideways up onto the back of the female and copulated with her with wings raised during the quick mating and before climbing sideways off her again.
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After the mating, both birds rubbed heads and necks briefly and did a small bowing dance before the female flew off to another pan, being closely followed by the male.
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