Did you know that some birds mate for life?
There are a few species of birds that never divorce, no matter what. These birds have a strong bond and are dedicated to each other for the rest of their lives.
Why do some Birds Mate for Life?
Most birds do not mate for life. Over 90 per cent of all bird species form a pair bond and stay together for at least a part of the nesting cycle.
However, there are a some species of birds that form pair bonds that result in many offspring, year after year, until one of the pair dies. This type of behaviour can be observed in many species of swans, geese, ducks, cranes, storks, and penguin.
Researchers have studied these types of relationships and found that they can be very beneficial for both parties involved.
There are a few reasons why birds mate for life. One reason is that it provides them with stability and security. These birds know that they can always rely on their partner, no matter what happens.
In addition, mating for life also ensures that both parents are equally invested in raising their young. This way, the chicks have a better chance of survival.
Examples of Birds that Mate for Life
The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a bird of prey found in North America. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. As a sea eagle, it belongs to the genus Haliaeetus and actually forms a species pair with the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). It has two subspecies — the nominate species and H. l. washingtoniensis.
Despite their name, bald eagles are not actually bald, but have feathers that are mainly brown with a white head and tail. The common name bald eagle derives from an older meaning of the word, “white headed”.
The bald eagle is the national symbol of the United States. In the late 20th century, these eagles were almost extinct, but populations have since recovered. It is now listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
Bald eagles are monogamous and are believed to mate for life. They do not migrate with their mate, but perform displays when they come together for the breeding season. The breeding season takes place in and around March depending on the season, which is early compared to most raptors that mate in April or May.
The bald eagle begins to build its nest in either January or February. When they are old enough to breed, they often return to the area where they were born. Bald eagle nests are composed of sticks and are the largest of any bird in North America. The nest is used repeatedly over many years and with new material added each year may eventually be as large as 4 m (13 ft) deep, 2.5 m (8.2 ft) across and weigh as much as 1 metric ton. Nests are usually built in large trees near water, but may occasionally be built on the ground if there are no trees.
The Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a large bird of prey related to hawks and eagles. This large, terrestrial bird of prey is endemic to the open grasslands in sub-saharan Africa. The Secretary Bird is famed for being the prominent emblem of Sudan and South Africa and appears on both nations coat of arms.
Secretary birds mate for life and although out of breeding season they can be solitary, the other half of a pair is usually not far away. Secretary birds are silent nearly all of the time. The only sound they make is a croaking sound when displaying for a mate. Courtship includes a mutual display of chasing each other with wings spread up and backwards much like they perform when chasing ground prey. Mating takes place either on the ground or in their large nests up high in Acacia trees. The female lays 2 – 3 oval, pale green eggs over a period of 2 – 3 days. The rough textured eggs are incubated by the female for 45 – 50 days.
The Osprey bird (Pandion haliaetus) is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution. It occurs in all continents around the world except for Antarctica, but in South America only as a non-breeding migrant. The Osprey bird is often known by other colloquial names such as ‘fishhawk’, ‘seahawk’ or ‘Fish Eagle’
The Osprey breeds by freshwater lakes and sometimes on coastal brackish waters. Most Ospreys do not start breeding until they are five to seven years old. If there are no nesting sites available, young Ospreys may be forced to delay breeding. To ease this problem, posts may be erected to provide more sites suitable for nest building.
Osprey usually mate for life. In spring they begin a five-month period of partnership to raise their young. Female Osprey lay 3 – 4 eggs within a month and rely on the size of the nest to help conserve heat. The cinnamon-colored eggs weigh about 65 grams (2.4oz). The eggs are incubated for about 5 weeks before they hatch.
The newly-hatched Osprey chicks weigh only 50 – 60 grams (2oz), but fledge within eight weeks. When food is scarce, the first chicks to hatch are most likely to survive.
The Macaroni Penguin is a species of penguin closely related to the Rockhopper Penguin. It is one of eight species of crested penguin that is found on the Antarctic Peninsula, on a number of Antarctic and subantarctic islands in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and on the islands near the coasts of Chile and Argentina. Macaroni penguins are most notable for their long yellow-orange feathers on their crest that contrast with the black feathers on their head.
Macaroni penguins are often confused with royal penguins, and are often thought of as the same species. However, they are in fact different species.
Like many species of penguins, macaroni penguins are mostly monogamous and are likely to mate for life. Female macaroni penguins become sexually mature at age five, while most males wait until the age of six to breed. Females breed at a younger age because the male population is larger and this allows female penguins to select more experienced male partners as soon as the females are physically able to breed. Once females arrive at a colony, males use sexual displays to attract partners, which includes bowing, braying and trumpeting.
The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is one of the most magnificent birds of prey in the British Isles and is one of two of Britain’s resident eagles, the other being the White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). The Golden eagle is the smaller of the two eagles, however, it has a much greater distribution across the British Isles, particularly in the Scottish highlands, due to the white tailed eagles recent reintroduction after the last bird was shot in 1917.
The Isle of Mull in Scotland is a perfect place to observe these elegant birds of prey as well as a few pairs of white tailed sea eagles. Mulls vast valleys and soaring peaks provide channels through which the birds hunt and glide, making sightings a regular occurrence. There are around 450 breeding pairs resident in Scotland and they are still on the increase.
Golden eagles mate for life, staying within a very large territory every year, Often moving between different nests (Eyries) each year to bring up their young. They build several eyries within their territory and use them alternately for several years.
The Little Penguin is the smallest species of penguin and breeds around the entire coastline of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands as well as southern Australia and Tasmania. These penguins have several common names. In Australia they are often referred to as Fairy Penguins due to their small size, in New Zealand they are called Little Blue Penguins or just Blue Penguins owing to their plumage color, the New Zealand Maori call them Korora.
Female Little penguins arrive in June to the breeding colonies and are met by raucous males who perform complicated courting displays. Peak egg laying time is generally June through August. They lay two eggs at a time which take approximately five weeks to hatch depending on the availability of food supplies.
Little penguins may have one, two, or even three broods (clutches) in a season. Nests are usually located in sheltered rock crevices but where these are not available they dig long burrows instead. Most Little penguins mate for life with both males and females incubating the eggs and caring for the young.