two Mourning doves perched on a tree branch
A pair of mourning doves strengthen their bond by mutual preening and cooing softly to each other. Doves mate for life and inspired the term ‘lovey dovey’ in the late 1700s. Source: Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

Are you a lovebird? You might be if you point, stare, hop, hoot or cartwheel for your sweetheart! Which of nature’s pairs below best reflects your inner cupid? 💘

Mōlī (Laysan albatross)

Reaching maturity as late as 10 years, these birds don’t rush into anything. They first learn from their elders, observing courtship rituals like dancing, preening, staring, and pointing bills. After years of homework, the young adult albatross starts by dancing with many partners, but over the years, narrows it down to the “chosen one.” In some cases, same sex individuals pair together and raise offspring. One same sex pair in Hawai‘i has been observed together for 19 years!

Bald eagle

The regal bald eagle puts on one of the most spectacular courtship shows. Mated partners lock talons in midflight and then spiral in a free-fall dive known as cartwheeling. Eagles often mate for life, and pairs will return to the same nests year after year. Male bald eagles help with nest construction and raising the eaglets.

Sandhill crane

During mating season, the tall, elegant sandhills stand close together, singing songs in synchronized unison then jumping into a well-choreographed dance number. Dancing can occur any time of year and may play a role in strengthening the pair bond.

Great horned owl

These owls perform lengthy courtship duets beginning in winter. Listen for characteristic hoots on cold, crisp evenings at dusk or dawn. Females are larger than males and start the duet, and the smaller males respond with a much lower pitched hoot. Attentive males will bring food to the nest for the female and owlets.

Wilson’s phalarope

In a complete role reversal from most bird species, females of this little shorebird exhibit vivid chestnut and black colors along the face and neck in breeding season as they court many males. The selected partner does most of the egg incubation. This is unlike most of the bird world where males wear the colors and either share incubation/rearing duties or leave it all up to the females.

Between dancing, serenading, or taking your time to find ‘the one,’ lovebird pairs come in all shapes and sizes. Tell us, who do you identify with the most?

Written by Susan Sawyer, public affairs officer and Rebecca Fabbri, public affairs specialist, California-Great Basin

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