Scientists have discovered something quite curious about the way the male splendid fairy-wrens attract their mates: they use fear as a flirtation device!
Using a horror film to bring your date closer is a classic move in the teenage playbook. Now, a study of Australian birds finds that other animals use the same "scary movie effect" to attract female attention, by hitchhiking mating signals onto the calls of predators.
Male splendid fairy-wrens, a sexually promiscuous small bird native to Australia, are known to sing a special song each time they hear the call of one of their predators, the butcherbirds. New research from scientists at the University of Chicago finds that this seemingly dangerous behavior actually serves as a call to potential mates -- a flirtation using fear.
Published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, the study involved painstaking field research playing sound clips to splendid fairy wrens at a conservation center in Southern Australia. Experiments determined that the "vocal hitchhiking" of male birds is a courtship behavior that uses predator calls to grab the attention of female birds.
See also: 30 Strangest Animal Mating Habits