The battlefield of attraction, dating and romance is riddled with bullets. Here’s how to recognise one.

At the best of times, we know what we want and we get it.

When it comes to the opposite sex, it’s torturous enough to pretend to have a good time while we’re trying to work them out, but what if they put on a special act to add to the confusion?

This is what social scientists like to call the bower bird, said to be

the most elaborate seducer in the animal kingdom


(And you thought the most elaborate seducer was the one that didn’t call you since he bought you a drink   — and by that we all know what happened after — three years ago.)


The bower bird, from New Guinea (the size of a pigeon with an even tinier brain — the bird, not the country) performs a mating dance just like any other animal, but also goes to great care to construct the most fabulous stage and backdrop with which to launch his Seduction Missile (that’s not a euphemism.)

It might be a three feet high grass-and-twig tower or a five feet wide garden of flowers and leaves. The point is, the male bower bird goes to extraordinary lengths to construct this love pad on the jungle floor when he decides he wants to jungle your floor. (Totally a euphemism.)

The result, observers have said, is that these bower birds are very precise in construction and colour. No mixing of green with yellow, no. Red flowers on one side, blue on the other. Precise, careful yet artful and beautiful.

When a female passes by, the romancing goes like this:

She inspects his construction, he puts on a great show of, err, showing off his treasures (such as a butterfly wing); he alternates between being coy and hiding behind a wall of flowers one minute, and the next minute, prancing in front of her, chest puffed out, neck feathers erect.

She is, of course, completely taken in. They consummate. She begins building a similar, but more modest, nest of her own.

He, post-consummation, wanders off in search of the next female.

Nest-building and brood-caring? NOT INTERESTED.

Before you yowl in recognition and show this to all your friends, let’s just state the obvious here.

When you go to bars with the aim of meeting someone — yes, you, Slutty Sally and Cocky Colin alike — you festoon yourselves much like the bower bird and make the backdrop as flattering as you can. (You won’t try and pick up a paramour at a dumpster, which is why you’ll choose a dark but sexy bar or club where leaning against the bar just makes you look that much more dashing than slouching over a desk.)

The parallel to the male bower bird goes further. We all take great care to make sure things like the colour of our clothes or our feathers (hair, make-up, beard, etc) look clean and shiny and spiffy.

The fact is,

we’re all putting on an elaborate display


But what is that elaborate display hiding? What is beneath the thick mascara or the rock-hard hair gel? What layers are shown when we strip away the padded bras and the shiny treasures like the gold watch?

If we dig deeper, do we find the gentle, considerate human being we need?

This is where humans differ from the bower bird: we need that last differentiating factor.

The bower bird does not care for such details. He wants to mate with as many female bower birds as possible. He doesn’t want to stay in her nest, feeding her mini-birds.

Humans, however, have thankfully developed that discernment that when looking for a long-term partner, they look for the qualities for a happy life together,

qualities that go beyond fragrance, make-up and a gilded cave of treasures

Intelligence, commitment, respect and kindness, however, are rarely displayed as overtly as high heels and oiled pecs.

These qualities are not built into the bower bird’s elaborate stage-and-display of preen, dazzle and seduce. And so it is with humans. If we’re dazzled by what’s on display, will we find the qualities that make us happy for a lifetime?

Despite many researchers in many countries — first world or otherwise — doing very deep digging through data and studies, none of them were surprised to find wealth — or the possibility of acquiring it — was a beacon signal attracting all the girls to the yard.

The reasons are the very same as the female bower bird’s attraction to the elaborate display and the nest-mansion.

The reason for the ladies’ attraction to wealth or the ability to amass it is because deep down some instinct tells them babies need to be fed, provided for and nesting space needs to be not leaky or shabby.

Façade or otherwise, the lad with the richest display will be the one thought to be able to provide it.

So the next time your lady bird is gazing into your eyes and cooing over the love nest you’ve so elaborately constructed, make sure to discern she’s not doing mental sums in her head while calculating the possibilities of where you might stash your last three years’ bank statements.