Attracting a mate in the animal kingdom often involves a bit of showing off, but for the waved albatross (Diomedea irrorata), securing a future for your genes comes down to one thing: a slap in the face.

These beautiful birds are the largest in the Galapagos Islands, boasting a whopping 240 cm (7.87ft) wingspan. They can live up to 30 years, and mate for life – a commitment that always begins with this hilarious courtship display. 

The dance includes a precise sequence of moves: rapidly circling and bowing, clacking beaks, mouth gaping, and finally raising their beaks skyward whilst letting out a "whoo-ooo" call to seal the deal. Once mated, a pair will lay just one egg per year, which they will guard vigilantly for two months.

Waved albatross hatchlings eventually leave the colony, and spend an astounding six years  foraging at sea before finding a mate of their own. Like all albatross species, these open-ocean dwellers have experienced pressure over the years from longline fisheries, often getting caught as bycatch when they try to snatch fish from the lines. Because the Galapagos birds only breed on a single island, these accidental catches have proven particularly detrimental over time. Combined with decline from oil spills, the birds have been declared critically endangered by the IUCN. 

Recent moves to reduce longline catches, like devices that scare birds away from passing boats, and more carefully monitored tourism on their native Española Island, have been helping waved albatrosses to bounce back. There's still a long way to go, but we can only hope these beak slappers will be around for years to come. 

Need a laugh? YouTube comedian Dan Jams decided to have a go at translating the mating dance:

Top header image: PoetryArchive/Screengrab from Youtube