They’re known for their careful scheming.
Literally: female – prostrate – male – fly
Alternately: Following someone else while waiting for a chance to strike out on one’s own. Keeping a low profile while preparing for your time to shine. Playing second fiddle… for now.
Notes: While it’s easy to tie the use of 雌 and 雄 characters to traditional sexist attitudes in East Asia – and while this view isn’t exactly unwarranted – the allusion at work here is a little more subtle. Apparently the images invoked are from the lives of birds, perhaps a specific species, where the nesting female lays low (雌伏) and the males flap their wings and take dramatically to the air (雄飛).
This compound comes to us from the Book of the Later Han (後漢書), in the biography of Zhao Dian (趙典) given in volume 27.