The Half Lekking Blackcock

It's odd to see him half and half
It’s odd to see him “half and half”

Over the past week my pet blackcock has started to display more and more. Watching him from the upstairs windows, I see that his wattles are more prominent than they were, although they are still a long way away from being at lek size. He walks about very keenly, then inflates his neck after a few giggles and starts to go for it. The only problem is that his tail doesn’t seem to come up as I would have expected it to. I’ve never seen wild blackcock at half mast like this, and I wonder if it’s a seasonal thing. From what I have seen, the tail is one of the first things to go up when a blackcock starts to think about lekking, and although you often see the tail half up during displays, I’ve never seen a cock bird bubbling without some activity in the tail region.

As I see it, progress to full lek behaviour seems to follow this order (in general, obviously): tail goes up, quiet little bursts of giggling begin, wattles go up, throat swells out, bubbling starts, head bows down and then the wings droop down on either side. Only in the full lekking display do I see the little bob or hear the sneeze, and only during the most excited moments do I hear the full scream – a sort of awful white noise which is usually part of a flutter jump or a short flight. So far, I’ve never heard my boy sneeze, let alone scream. I hope that this is because he’s saving the best for April, but part of me thinks that he might never go the whole hog.

I did this quick painting (above) to show how odd it looks to see a blackcock lekking with his tail down. I would have taken a picture, but nothing stops him from lekking faster than the sound of a camera shutter. Plus, given that he’s inside a chicken mesh pen, photographs are extremely difficult without going in to join him. As I have found over the last few months, blackcock do not make affectionate companions, and our relationship is founded upon the principle that we each keep ourselves to ourselves.

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