We don’t associate many animals as the marrying kind. Other than us humans can you think of another species that mate for life?
Well there are other species, besides humans that settle down into monogamous relationships, although it’s thought to be less than 5% of species and some of those, not unlike some humans, tend to have a wondering eye at times.
This Valentine's Day we are celebrating those species in Britain that mate for life (or mostly do anyway).
First on our list is the beautiful swan. These elegant birds have become renowned for their pair bonds and a photograph of two intertwining swan necks has become a universal symbol of love. By mating for life they learn from their success and failures each time that they raise cygnets.
Next is the Turtle Dove. There is a reason that these rare birds come in pairs in the well known Christmas song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. These iconic love birds have even inspired poetry in shakespeare!
European Beavers also pair up for life and become faithful to one another. A study by Pavel Munclinger found that, in every colony he surveyed, all of the offspring belonged to both parents as opposed to being fathered by males from elsewhere.
Barn owls are another surprising species that usually mate for life. Although, if they’re life mate dies they will seek to form a new pair bond with another barn owl. Male barn owls are true gentlemen! During the courtship period they will hunt more often in order to present the female with extra food.
And finally the famous Puffin! Our beloved British sea bird usually breed with the same mate every year using the same nesting burrow. It is unknown whether the pair stay together during their months at sea but in March when they return to Skomer Island they find each other.
However, this isn’t all as romantic as it first seems. Some birds choose a mate for life out of convenience. When weighing in the time it takes to establish territory, migration, incubation and raising young, spending any extra time seeking a new mate each breeding season would essentially minimise reproductive time.
This Valentine's Day, give a gift to wildlife and show you care by becoming a Wildlife Trust membership. It's a gift that will keep giving for the entire year!