heron pair

VABA photo

A pair of great blue herons on the nest.

Love is in the air. With Valentine Day approaching, it is a good time to see some of our avian species that have great love for their mates. Here are some birds that mate for life.

Birders in Southwest Florida are very familiar with our bald eagles. Many folks even follow and report on the individual eagle couples’ every move. Cameras focused on them to see every little thing they do. It is fascinating and quite addictive to watch the life of an avian pair. Recently one of a local eagle family’s chicks (http://bit.ly/2vkfic6) passed away because of a broken blood feather. This was quite a sad situation.

Eagles will lay one to three eggs. The only time they move on to find another mate is if one dies. Their crazy mating ritual is quite the sight to watch. The twirling and twisting in the air looks to be a wild fight; however, it is not.

Atlantic puffins are another bird species that mate for life. I don’t think they send each other Valentines, though. However, they are excellent parents, and both invest time in raising their single chick. The puffin does not mature until at least three years or more and then will find a mate. If you get to northern Maine (or New Brunswick, depending on whether you side with the U.S. or Canada about who owns the island), you would be able to take a boat to Machias Seal Island and observe these handsome birds.

The stunning barn owl is another species that mates for life. They even show affection to each other, maybe even more than some humans do. A barn owl’s life span is quite short; only about four years. However, they make the most of this time being in love. They cheek rub, lean on each other and even clean each other’s feathers. How sweet is that? Look at a photo of a barn owl. The face is shaped like a heart. If one dies, its mate is sometimes so grief-stricken it will also die. They have about five chicks. The male brings home the food and Mom disperses it fairly among the young. What a lovely happy family.

Another species that are mates for life is the mute swan. Many folks regard these as invasive to the environment. But still, they are beautiful creatures. Photographs show these swans bending toward each other and forming a beautiful heart with their long necks. Their name tells us that they are mute, but they do hiss at each other in communication. The mute swan pair will return to the same nest each year to share in raising their seven or eight chicks.

We have all seen the mourning doves cooing at each other. They are definitely lovey-doveys, as they are always together. The male coos at his lady and brings her twigs for the nest. They also share in incubation, just as two lovey-doveys should do.

The black vulture is also on this list. We definitely need these birds. If they disappeared, we would have excess carrion rotting on our highways. These mates for life hang out together all year, not just during mating season. These unique birds roost with their relatives. In addition, if a male vulture thinks another male is coming on to his female, there will be a fight. I have witnessed this, and it is not a pretty sight.

Canada geese are photographed and painted by many artists. They are handsome birds and are abundant in the north. Supposedly, a goose will become quite despondent if they lose their mate. In addition, if one is injured, the other will stay with it even if the flock is migrating. The male will protect his mate and the chicks until they learn to fly. What a great dad.

There are many species of birds and animals that mate for life, not just the very few mentioned.

With all the love and commitment we see in the avian world, this should be an influence to make certain that Valentine card and those flowers will be ready for you mate. If you do not have a mate at this time, then let me wish you a lovely Valentine’s Day. Take a walk in nature and enjoy the beautiful wildlife, as it is surely a gift.

Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Area Birding Association, a group of folks who want to enjoy the environment and nature without the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more info on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding trips, visit AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or email her at Amberina@aol.com.

Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Area Birding Association, a group of folks who want to enjoy the environment and nature without the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more info on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding trips, visit AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or email her at Amberina@aol.com.

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