Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!


For completely biased and personal reasons, I am completely obsessed with animals that mate for life. (Gives us humans some hope, you know? ;)) Although the phenomenon is relatively rare in mammals, it is actually quite prevalent in birds, especially large birds like eagles, owls, ravens and swans.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to tell you the most romantic story I have ever witnessed. Several years ago, the Alaska Zoo received an injured trumpeter swan that we kept in a large lake toward the back of our zoo. One day, a wild swan arrived and began keeping our swan company during her daily swims. Months passed, and eventually every wild swan except this swan migrated south for the winter. He NEVER left our swan’s side—even in the coldest winter months—and the pair lived together in our lake for the rest of their lives.

This story plays out on a semi-regular basis in zoos all across the country. Here’s a story Discovery News just published about a pair of amorous bald eagles at the Orange County Zoo in California: Wild Bald Eagle Obsessed with Zoo Female.

Ready for more romance? The Mother Nature Network compiled a great list of eleven well-known (and sometimes not-so-well-known) animals that mate for life: Old Faithful: 11 Animals that Mate for Life. And here’s another, a BBC Wildlife Finder that lists many more monogamous animals: Monogamous Pairing in Animals.

(As a final nerdy disclaimer, animal monogamy isn’t always 100% without its hiccups! Monogamous animals sometimes “divorce” and replace their mates, and they often seek out new pair bonds after the deaths of their first mates. Watch out, sweet young things, for animals on the rebound!)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!! :)