Courtship is serious business in the animal kingdom, and every species has its own way of engaging potential mates. Some, like fireflies, employ chemical stimuli, attracting partners with their bioluminescent bellies (and lighting up the forest in the process). The male puffer fish on the other hand, woos females with intricate sand sculptures, somewhat like mandalas, that take many days to create (never mind the task of maintaining it, amidst ocean currents). Large mammals like tigers and elephants prove their prowess with displays of aggression and physical strength, but there are other ways of proving one’s worth.
Case in point, the Bengal florican, one of the most endangered birds on the planet. Found in small pockets in the grassy foothills of the Himalayas, the Bengal florican’s courtship ritual is part pageant and part dance-off. It is a show that has delighted birdwatchers for centuries, but watching the spectacle from afar, and photographing the birds up-close are two entirely different matters, as wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee can testify. He is among few photographers who have managed to get close to the bird, and document its courtship ritual in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, in Uttar Pradesh, along with a team from the Bombay Natural History Society.