The national emblem of the United States, these birds have an impressive wingspan of 6-7 feet. They stick together for life, except in the event of their partner’s death – or impotency. They choose the tops of large trees to build nests, which they typically use and enlarge each year – nests can reach 10 feet across and weigh a half ton!
Creatures of habit, they spend a lot of time at home, and like to stick to a strict routine in their daily comings and goings. They have impeccable hearing – it’s said that a Barn Owl can actually hear a mouse’s heartbeat in a 30ft sq room! Courtship involves the male bringing the female food, and copulation usually takes place with every gift of food! But it’s not all about food and sex, most pairs also engage in mutual preening, cheek rubbing and meaningful conversation – they “talk” to each other in the nest making a wide variety of soft chittering and hissing calls.
These birds live in open ocean waters and wander the skies above, only returning to land when they’re ready to “find love” at the age of 6 or 7. They mate for life and woo a mate using elaborate mating dances, which helps strengthen their bond, which can last up to 40 years.
Claimed by the crown in England and Wales in the 12th Century, primarily to stop paupers from depriving the royals of their favourite banqueting dish, but now to protect them from harm. Swans perform a mating dance which involves the pair facing each other and, with a ruffle of feathers and lifted wings, bowing gracefully. Once courtship is complete, male and female swans are bonded for life, however adultery and divorce are not unheard of!
Penguins are mostly monogamous, however there are some species like the Emperor Penguin which is serially monogamous, only staying together for a single breeding season. African and Magellanic, Gentoo and Royal penguins are examples of monogamous penguin species. Despite spending long periods apart and each of them taking solo trips totalling 200,000 miles, researchers monitoring the birds reported a pair of Magellanic penguins that had remained faithful to each other for 16 years and counting.
These rainbow-coloured birds live together in large noisy groups in tall deciduous trees in forests. Macaws are the largest parrots in the world, measuring 33 inches from beak to tail. Couples preen each other and their young and won’t raise new chicks until their previous ones are independent.
In early spring, adults display elaborate courtship rituals, bobbing, weaving, jumping and calling with their mates and remain monogamous for the rest of their 25 year lifespan. This migratory birds number hit an all time low of just 15 birds in 1941. Whooping cranes are still critically endangered, but innovative scientists, like those from the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, are thinking of new ways to protect this fragile species and make sure that the story of the whooping crane does not end on a tragic note.
Geese are very loyal and well-known for their devotion to their mate and family. After an elaborate courtship, they stay together for life and are very protective of their partners and offspring. Goslings begin communicating with their parents while still in the egg, and as chicks they respond in different ways to different adult calls, indicating that the adults use a variety of calls with a range of meanings to communicate with their young. After a partner dies, some geese spend the rest of their lives as widows or widowers, refusing to mate again.
This condor became extinct in the wild in 1987, and all remaining wild individuals were captured. But the species has been reintroduced to northern Arizona and southern Utah. They are opportunistic scavengers that feed primarily on large dead mammals. They stay together for life, which can reach 60 years, one of the longest living birds, but have low reproductive rates, only laying a single egg every 2 years.
These “clowns of the sea” spend most of their time out on the open water. It’s believed that the birds colourful bills and feet, which fade in the winter and brighten in the spring, help puffins bag a potential mate, which they do between the ages of 3 and 6 years of age. They have a mating ritual known as “billing” where the two birds rub their beaks together. This often draws an excited crowd of other puffins to watch! They will raise a single chick, and parenting duties are shared between them equally.
These giants of the crow family are known to be super intelligent, they’re up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. But they are also playful, performing mid-air acrobatics and playing games that involve passing stones to one another. Their language is complex, with the widest range of calls than any other bird. They’re also a very kind species, showing empathy to friends that have lost in fights and so on. Their monogamous relationships can last for more than 30 years.
When black vultures are interested in one another, they leave the flock and a chase ensues in mid air. They fly to great heights, latch on to one another, and spiral down like acrobats in a heroic, romantic display. For some males, infidelity is too hard to resist, and if caught cheating, the community of vultures will attack the philanderer! However, their bond is usually so strong that they hang out together all year round, and not just during mating seasons.
Although they hunt over water, ospreys generally nest on land. They can close their nostrils voluntarily to avoid getting water up their noses, when they dive in for their prey. They attract their chosen mate with an elaborate flight ritual overhead, often flying in a wave pattern while clutching a fish to impress the lucky lady. She will respond by flying to his nesting site and eating the fish he offers up to her. They reunite every mating season, and live for 30 years.
These birds nest in dead trees 25 to 80 feet above the ground, by cutting large holes in the trees trunk. It can take up to 30 days for the pair to finish a nesting hole. And they’ll will defend its territory in all seasons, but will tolerate new arrivals during the winter, which provide crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks and bats.
The blue jay is a large, songbird of 10 to 12 inches. It got its name from the “jay! jay!” sound it makes, but they also sing softly like a songbird. These birds are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. They store their food underground for later use, and since their favourite food is acorns they have assisted in the growth of lots of new oak trees.