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Love Birds of the South Shore

(Illustration: James Tilley)

Just like human love, bird love comes in many forms. Some birds form lifelong partnerships, others form bonds that last one or more breeding seasons, and some prefer a more casual, non-committal lifestyle. Here are some love languages of our local feathered friends.

Grebes, small diving waterbirds, have the most impressive courtship dance which resembles two birds dancing a passionate tango. 

The House Wren’s wooing hinges on the female’s evaluation of the male’s house and property. He escorts her to his cavity, which he has scantily staged with a few twigs. If it meets her standards, nest construction begins, confirming their bond.

The hopeless romantic Canada Goose forms lifelong connections, refusing to abandon a sick or injured partner. Even if the rest of the flock migrates onward, a Canada goose remains devotedly by their companion’s side. Geese grieve, and many will never seek another mate after their partners die. 

Atlantic Puffins will also bond for life, returning faithfully to the same nesting site each year. Upon reuniting, these charming birds get flirty, bumping beaks and pecking each other on the cheek.

Red-tailed Hawks will reinforce their bond with an impressive aerial show, interlocking talons with their partners and spiraling toward the ground in a display of unity and connection. 

Mourning Doves, in a tender expression of love, engage in preening—a delicate ritual involving the careful straightening and cleaning of each other’s feathers with their beaks. This intimate act symbolizes a shared commitment to each other’s well-being.

The male Northern Cardinal will dance a charming courtship sequence, flaunting his chest, and then showing off his flying and singing abilities. The performance concludes with a food offering, signifying his ability to provide for their future feathered family.


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