Nupital Dance
colored pencil and watercolor

In the Nuptial Dance series, I explore the elaborate mating displays of birds. Accompanying the birds in each drawing are plants and flowers symbolic of matrimony from classical, medieval, and Victorian sources.


Nuptial Dance of the
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

(8" x 12")

The female ruby-throated hummingbird constructs her tiny nest before choosing a mate. To impress her, the male performs a spectacular swooping u-shaped dive that displays his iridescent plumage.

Lilacs symbolize the “first emotion of love.” The flame vine represents the heat of love’s passion. Both flowers are sources of nectar for the hummingbird.

The border is a southwestern Indian design of paired hummingbird heads that signifies devotion and permanence.



Nuptial Dance of the
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

(14" x 18")

During the flycatcher’s courting “sky dance,” the male soars straight up as high as 100 feet, then plunges downward and sharply turns upward again, creating a zigzag path while uttering a cackling call. On his last upward flight, he flies higher still and then tumbles backwards in 2 or 3 somersaults to show off his soft under wing colors to his mate.

The cape jasmine gardenia is a symbol of ecstasy. The lemons represent zest. Branches of the myrtle tree were hung on doorposts in classical Rome as a sign of joy at marriage.

The southwest Indian wedding basket pattern in the border echoes the zigzag pattern of the flycatcher’s nuptial flight.


Nuptial Dance of the
Western Grebe

(15" x 18")

In the grebes “rushing ceremony,” the mating pair swim side-by-side so vigorously that their bodies rise up out of the water and they seem to be running upon its surface.

Cattails in medieval times were symbolic of lust, but to the Celtic people they represented energy, balance, and stability. The marsh mallow with its large flower symbolizes love and protection, as to the reed-like rushes, which help hide the grebe’s nest.

The yin-yang border design indicates the unity of male and female.



Nuptial Dance of the
Sage Grouse

(15" x 20")

In the spring, up to 100 male sage grouse gather at dawn on a circular strutting arena called a “lek,” which may have been used by several generations of grouse. They parade before the assembled females, inflating their yellow air sacs with a popping-gurgling sound and fanning out their long tail feathers.

The grouse builds her nest under the sage brush plant. The herb sage was used in classical time to promote conception. It also represents domestic virtue.

The interlocking circular border pattern represents unity and reflects the shape of the grouse’s lek.



Nuptial Dance of the
Satin Bowerbird

(15" x 18")

The male satin bowerbird builds a courtship “bower” of two parallel walls of twigs. He collects mostly blue objects to decorate it and even paints the inner wall blue with a mixture of saliva and chewed berries. When a female enters the bower, he begins his display of strutting and bowing with wings spread out. He presents the female with one of his collected decorations, often a yellow leaf.

The blue iris indicated the sending of a love note or message. The hydrangeas represent boastfulness. Pansies symbolize thoughts of the beloved.

The border design is based on a native New Guinea symbol for house.


Nuptial Dance of the
Greater Bird of Paradise
(15" x 20")

Groups of up to 20 males gather at dawn in the treetops. They spread their yellow plumage, bowing down and curving their wings upward. When a female approaches, the males freeze into position until she makes her choice.

The beech tree represents the meeting of lovers. The bird of paradise flower reflects the courtship display of the bird.

The border is based on a Maori design.


Nuptial Dance of the
Roseate Spoonbill

(15" x 20")

In the spring, the female spoonbill isolates herself in a bush or tree. The male lights near her with wings outspread, often positioning himself with the sun behind him so that his deep pink plumage appears to glow. They both engage in bill clapping, dancing, and the exchange of nesting material.

The water hyacinths represent constancy and fidelity. Milkweed is a sign of hope.

The border is formed from Welsh love spoons, which were traditionally carved by young Welsh men to present to maidens as a declaration of their undying love.


Nuptial Dance of the
Marsh Wren
(8" x 12")

The male wren builds several round grass nests woven onto sedges or cattails. While he sings and displays, the female examines his building efforts. If she decides to accept him as a mate, she selects on of the nests and lines it with soft grasses to prepare it for egg laying.

Sedges, a type of marsh grass, represent docility. The marsh mallow flower is a symbol of generosity.

The border is a series of Irish love knots.


Nuptial Dance of the
Yellow-shafted Flicker

(8" x 16")

The male flicker chisels out a nest hole while two or more females chase and bicker with each other around the tree trunk. When one female emerges as a winner, she and the male engage in a mutual display bobbing their heads and spreading their wings and tails.

The tulip tree represents happiness. Ivy is a symbol of marital fidelity.

The border is based on a West African graphic that proclaims “I shall marry you.” It is a symbol of commitment that comes from the proverb “No one rushes into the job of mixing concrete for building the house of marriage.”


(18" x 24")

Clyde LeBlanc and I married on April 21, 2003
in Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.


©2008 Mary Lee Eggart
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