About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bird love is in the air

February is the month of love, perhaps inspired by some interesting behaviors exhibited by our bird friends. There was a popular notion in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on February 14. The reason for this assumption might be related to the fact that the birds started singing again sometime in mid-February. Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400), an English poet mentions this belief in his Parlement of Foules (1382):
“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day, Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”
[Translation "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate."]

Bird courtship displays are integral to mating and raising young. Female birds often choose suitors based on appearance, the ability to provide food, evidence that the male can build the strongest and safest nest and other characteristics. If you have woodpeckers in your yard, you probably have heard the rat-tat-tatting on phone poles to attract their mates. Other species flash pretty feathers to females, touch bills or groom each other during courtship. Jays and cardinals often present food gifts to their potential mates while doves fluff up their feathers and “dance.”  And as the days get longer there will also be more birdsong in the air, to attract mates and stake out territories.

In North America most birds form bonds for at least a single nesting. These pairings allow birds to split domestic duties for protecting eggs and caring for hatchlings. Other pair bonds include mating for life, either by pairing up again each breeding season or remaining with each other year-round. Cardinals, jays, doves, chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, and robins are some of the common backyard birds that spend nesting seasons together 'til death do they part. Even cowbirds which lay their eggs in other birds nests are largely monogamous.

Related Articles:
Can birds predict your Valentine? http://bit.ly/ztZyzK
Love and the Birds: The Origin of St. Valentine's Day http://bit.ly/zJnkV2
What are Lovebirds? http://bit.ly/xnq0Hz
Do Birds Mate For Life? http://bit.ly/ysg81B
How Birds Mate http://bit.ly/zRvpJ1

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