Ah, February. We spend half the month shopping for chocolate and giant teddy bears, race the night before (valentines day) to get flowers, and share a special candlelight dinner. Then spend the other half of the month buying chocolate and giant teddy bears at half off. All for love.
Although Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I wanted to continue the love just a little bit longer. Love is something us humans cherish and long for daily, but we aren’t the only ones. Many animals find attraction and connection to mates just like us.
There are two forms of attraction and connection in the animal kingdom-polygamy and monogamy. Polygamy is the practice of having more than one mate while monogamy is having one pair of bonding between a male and female.1 Although true monogamy is actually rare in the animal kingdom some animals try their hardest. For example, the true heartthrobs and sweethearts themselves, birds. I want to acknowledge some of these romantics.
Pretty in Pink
The American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is beautiful and graceful, much like 80’s teen sweetheart Molly Ringwald. Though unlike her character Andie in this classic, Flamingoes are extremely social animals and travel in huge flocks. Similar to main hunk Blaine, male American Flamingoes will march and move their heads back and forth to win the attention of the females.2 Once they pair off Flamingoes will mate for life—following the till death do us part closely.
Sweet Home Alabama
Although their appearance isn’t as pretty as Reese Witherspoon or handsome as Josh Lucas the Black Vulture’s (Coragyps atratus) love story is ever so sweet. The Black Vulture’s range is concentrated in the southern states of North America giving them southern charm. Males will chase and dive at females to get them to fall in love with them.3 Just like Jake Perry’s choice to bicker back and forth with Melanie Smooter throughout most of the film. However, in the end their love is forever. Black Vultures are completely monogamous and will stay with their mates for years.
The Bald Eagle's (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) courtship ritual is like a beautiful dance. Although, their love story isn't as complicated as Baby and Johnny's, their dance should be considered just as iconic. This iconic dance is known as a Cartwheel Display. The Bald Eagles will lock their talons together, flip, spin, and twirl all while falling through the air and breaking apart only before hitting the ground.3 This courtship is truly the time of their life because they will spend their lifetime together.
The Notebook is arguably one of the top romantic movies purely based on the strength of Noah and Allie's love. Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) love is arguably the top monogamous pairing in the Aves (bird) class. It takes them years to pick a mate-sometimes up to 15 years-but once they make their choice they do not change or leave. They remain faithful until one of them dies. Even when they are out at sea and don't see each other for a while!4
Ready to explore these romantics and others hidden in your own back yard?
1 Whiteman, L. (2013, February 13). Animal Attraction: The Many Forms of Monogamy in the Animal Kingdom. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126932
2 American Flamingo. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://animalia.bio/american-flamingo#mating
3 Berger, M. (2012, February 10). Till Death Do Them Part: 8 Birds that Mate for Life. Retrieved from https://www.audubon.org/news/till-death-do-them-part-8-birds-mate-life
4 Krulwich, R. (2014, April 22). Introducing A Divorce Rate For Birds, And Guess Which Bird Never, Ever Divorces? Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2014/04/22/305582368/introducing-a-divorce-rate-for-birds-and-guess-which-bird-never-ever-divorces