Research

Rattling Feathers for Attention

Peacocks are known for their colorful mating displays, but it turns out there’s more to them than meets the eye. To help them gain a penhen’s attention, peacocks will sometimes rattle their train-feathers. The sound this makes is mostly below the range of human hearing, but the rustle creates subtle vortices in the air that cause the feathers atop a peahen’s head to vibrate. Playing back the sound at peahens from typical train-rattling distances also gets the females’ attention. Researchers found the playback makes peahens’ crests vibrate at a resonant frequency, suggesting that these feathers are for more than display; they’re used for communication as well! (Image and research credit: S. A. Kane et al.; video credit: Science)

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