Interested in finding out about birds that mate for life?
The world of wildlife behaviors is incredibly varied, with all manner of sexual practice on display. For birds specifically, the World Wildlife Foundation found that around 90% of species choose monogamy as their reproductive strategy. This is a huge number compared to mammals at just 5%.
The thinking behind why birds are generally monogamous is that the parental time investment needed to raise chicks is so large. One parent is needed to incubate eggs in a nest, while the other collects food for the pair, and the chicks once they’re hatched. By the time the chicks leave the nest it’s almost breeding season again, leaving little time to find a new mate.
As most species of birds are monogamous, we’ve picked a selection of 15 of the most romantic birds that mate for life. So pour yourself a glass of wine, dim the lights and turn on the romantic music, we’re about to meet nature’s most loving birds:
Vultures are not generally thought of as amorous birds – in fact, they have rather a grim reputation. Black vultures can teach humans a lesson or two in love, however, as bonded pairs mate for life and stay together as much as possible all year-round. During their courtship, male vultures circle the female they’re wooing with an extended neck, then dive down towards them.
As with birds generally, most penguin species mate for life. Marconi penguins (also known as Royal Penguins) take loving relationships to a new level, however, performing an ‘ecstatic display’ when they see each other after being apart, puffing up their chests, swinging their heads around, and making a gurgling sound. Once their chick is hatched, the father stays with the offspring while the mother heads off to hunt for food for the family.
As with all the avians on this list, California condors are generally birds that mate for life. However, in cases where the pair are unsuccessful at breeding, they will go their own ways to find another mate. During their courtship, these giant gliders fly around together looking for the perfect spot to build their nest – with the female getting the final say, of course!
Another famously monogamous bird is the albatross. These birds spend much of their lives out at sea, safe in the knowledge that they have a faithful, dedicated mate for life when breeding season comes around each year. The albatross displays real devotion to their partners, with the pairs performing an annual bonding dance together!
Swans are considered a symbol of love – their necks even form a heart-shape when two swans meet! During courtship, swans curve their necks towards one another, lift their wings, and bow to each other. Once bonded, the pair generally stays together for life, and once a mate is lost the surviving swan goes through a grieving process that humans could recognize. Once its grieving is complete the swan may find another mate, join a flock, or live out the rest of its days alone.
Geese take the idea of mating for life very seriously. Canada geese are so devoted to their partners that if a goose is injured or sick and unable to fly, their partner often refuses to leave them, guarding them until they recover or pass away – even if winter is coming and the rest of the flock start their southward migration. As with swans, geese go through a grieving process, with some geese spending the rest of their lives as widows or widowers, never mating again
The bald eagle is a symbol of the U.S., and also a symbol for ever-lasting love. When they first meet a male and female bald eagle lock talons (or hold hands?) as they flip and spin through the sky together. After this display, they spend each winter alone and meet their partner each year during the breeding season.
The male bald eagle stays around after breeding to help to keep the eggs warm and to feed the chicks for their first months of life. The bald eagle pair are also houseproud, keeping the same breeding nest through their lives, and adding to the structure each year as a symbol of their enduring relationship.
The birds are amongst the largest eagles in the world.
Sandhill cranes stand out from the monogamous bird crowd by professing their love to their partner by making sweet music in the form of ‘unison calling’. This squawking between couples helps them to find each other amongst the huge flocks and to strengthen the bond of their lifelong relationship.
Whooping cranes are North America’s tallest birds, which helps them perform some of the most intricate courtships dances in the animal kingdom. Their elaborate dancing takes the form of jumping and bouncing, and secures them a mate for life when performed to the pleasure of their dancing partner.
Barn owls are devoted birds, with both their courtship behavior being recognizable to humans as being particularly romantic. Both males and females make special sounds to one another to indicate their interest (males screech and females croak), while male barn owls bring their potential mate gifts of dead mice. Once these birds find their mate they’re set for a lifelong partnership.
The smallest birds on this list, they’re called ‘lovebirds’ for a reason, people! Lovebirds are extremely affectionate birds, and once they form a pair bond (after reaching sexual maturity at 10 months old) they only have eyes for their partner. The rest of their life is spent in the most monogamous relationship of all African parrots.
Yes, these common birds (some city-dwellers might say pests!) make the list of birds that mate for life. They may not be as glamourous as many other birds on this list, but they are just as monogamous, breeding up to eight times each year with the same partners. Between incubating their eggs and raising their chicks, it’s no wonder they have no time to think about other partners!
Monk parakeets (also known as Quaker parrots) are social creatures that live in large colonies, however, within the group males and females form strong, monogamous bonds. These relationships are maintained through a routine of incredible amounts of preening one another.
The scarlet macaw is the largest of all parrots, and seems to be one of the most romantic too. These brightly colored parrots mate for life, raising one or two chicks together each year. When they’re not on childcare duty they spend a large amount of time maintaining their pair bond with copious preening of each other.
Puffins usually – though not always – breed with the same mate each year, before spending the winter months out at sea feeding. It’s not known whether breeding pairs spend these six months at sea together or separately, but puffins make this list due to the couples’ habit of rubbing their beaks together in a public display of affection… it must be love!
And that’s our list of birds that mate for life. Any that surprise you? Or any we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.