Part of this bird’s scientific name already gives away something about its behaviour. The Latin pugnax means ‘combative’ and that is what the males perform as part of their mating rituals. Males and females gather in mating arenas for a mating ritual. The males display their large, colourful collar of feathers (a ruff) during battles with other males in the arena. Females observe the fighting and at some point will select a male of their choosing to mate with. This appears to be a very simple system of ‘may the best man win’. Enter the drag queen: Among the females around the arena are a few males without a collar and virtually indistinguishable from females. As soon as a female is ready to mate with one of the victors, the drag queen ruff will try to grab the opportunity to mate before the victor can.
Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr
Tissue Culture & Art Project
SymbioticA, The Centre for Excellence in Biological Arts
School of Human Sciences + School of Design
The University of Western Australia