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It’s important to remember that no matter how spectacular the male birds-of-paradise look, it’s the females that are in control. They decide who they mate with, and the choices they make determine what the next generation looks like.
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Displays start when males begin calling from their display perch. Females fly in to investigate, keeping a healthy distance from the males at first.
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Most birds-of-paradise don’t form pair bonds, so females are free to choose whichever male they find most attractive. Many females may choose the same mate, and many males each year end up without any mating success.
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In a few species (mostly in the genus Paradisaea), several males display next to each other. This gives a central location for females to fly in and compare males before making a decision.
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As the male’s display continues and the female decides to keep watching, she gradually comes closer to the male to give him even more scrutiny.
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At times, the female lands on the same perch as the male, as in this Victoria’s Riflebird.
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Though females have most of the power in deciding whether to mate, males do have some control over what a female sees. One way they do this is by choosing display sites such as a log or sapling that give females only a few places to perch.
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Male Goldie’s Bird-of-Paradise (and other species in the Paradisaea genus) periodically freeze during their displays. This gives the females a chance to get even closer, seemingly inspecting the male on a feather-by-feather basis.
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The effect of touch is most obvious in the Twelve-wired Bird-of-Paradise. Here, the female approaches the male from below, and he waggles his body back and forth, brushing her with the wiry extensions of his flank feathers.
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The filmy yellow display plumes of a Greater Bird-of-Paradise cascade over his back and over this female as she makes her decision.
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The great majority of visits by females to display sites end without mating. Sometimes females visit outside of their breeding season or while they already have an active nest. They are probably gathering information about nearby males for when they are ready to choose a mate.
Inspection & Touch Gallery 
In many images it's the male birds-of-paradise that grab your eye with their gaudy displays. But in these photos something equally important is happening. Look for the subtly colored females as they move in close to cast their discerning eyes over every aspect of the male's plumage and choreography. It's their choice that will decide which male's genes pass on to the next generation.