Birds That Mate For Life: Amaze-wing Facts On Monogamous Bird Species

Ritwik Bhuyan
Mar 07, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Oct 23, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Mute Swan adult and cute fluffy baby cygnets, swimming together on a sunny day.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.7 Min

Did you know that 90% of all bird species worldwide are monogamous, meaning they choose one mate for a breeding season and sometimes for life?

Many bird species are monogamous, and mating in birds is similar to humans in some ways as birds also dance and sing for courting, form a pair, raise a brood together, and send their young off to make new families. It is not common to see monogamous birds mating for life until death.

Some species stay together for a season or several seasons, but fewer species remain faithful until the end. However, some species of birds meet each other, court, and form pair bonds. This pair bond will give birth to many offspring year after year and continue until one bird dies. Geese, swans, cranes, ducks, storks, and many other species mate for life and prefer this relationship with one partner.

Some swan species have been researched and found to mate for life and successfully raise offspring as parents. If one member of the pair dies in swans, the other one might take a new mate after a couple of years. Sometimes, it even takes five to six years for a swan to form a new pair after losing the first one. Bald Eagles are also known to mate for life. Bald Eagles do not stay together all the time as they separate during the winters. The Bald Eagle pair return to the same nest area each year; however, if an eagle does not come back, Bald Eagles are known to find a new mate for their nest.

Birds like chickadees, goldfinches, and robins form a bond and mate for one breeding season, and in some birds, one male and several females all nest at the same time. In hummingbirds, the nature of pairing is just for a few minutes, and male partners do not even make the nests or incubate the eggs. Male mates do not care for the offspring. However, some songbirds like the Northern Cardinal have a more extended period of staying with each other.

Birds that are usually called life partners include Barn Owls, Bewick's Swans, Black Vultures, Blue Jays, Atlantic Puffins, Bald Eagles, California Condors, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Sandhill Cranes, Scarlet Macaws, Snow Geese, Whooping cranes, and many more.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about what are crocs made of and birds that lay blue eggs here on Kidadl?

What are monogamous birds?

As we already know that around 90 % of birds follow monogamy, but birds are not as loyal to the idea of monogamy as previously thought.

Monogamy is defined as the system of one male mating with one female to form a pair. These pair bonds can last for a single nesting period, a breeding season, many breeding seasons, or for life. Bonding with just one partner was thought necessary to raise their brood, which needed to be pampered and cared for when just a baby. However, the time provided by the male partner to the nesting and caring process varies with each species. In some species, males protect the nests and collect food for the females and offspring, while in others, both male and female birds help build a nest and participate in the nesting process.

There are two types of monogamy in birds, sexual monogamy and social monogamy. The male of the pair chooses a female for mating and rearing the offspring but will also form bonds with other females. They are known for mating with other female birds while their partner looks after the eggs in the nest. This is known as social monogamy, and most birds prefer this. In sexual monogamy, the pair mates and parents together for the whole breeding season or life and do not mate with other birds except on rare occasions.

Forming a bond among partners ensures the babies' safety while in the nest and outside the breeding cycle. The birds follow the simple formula of two partners are better than one in incubating the eggs, helping the brood, feeding the young, and creating a family.

What birds have only one mate for life?

Several species of birds have just a single partner for life, and here we will discuss a few of them.

Bald Eagle or Haliaeetus Leucocephalus found in North America are known to mate for life. The bonded pairs of the Bald Eagle are considered the power couples among birds as the birds work together and help each other build a future for their babies. They live solitary lives for most of the year but return to the same mate every nesting season. They stay faithful and only find a new mate if the older partner can no longer build a family. The nests of the Bald Eagles are one of the largest, and they raise one or three chicks in a year.

Scarlet Macaws or Ara Macao are seen in the rainforests of South America. A Scarlet Macaw is a colorful bird known for being a devoted partner. They mate for life, as well as, does everything for each other. They enjoy mutual preening and share food. Although some bird species live apart until the breeding season, the Scarlet Macaw birds always stay together. These bonds are not meant to be broken and are similar to humans, at least in some cases. Males and females of the birds raise three to four chicks in a nest. They take care of the young, incubate the eggs, and feed the chicks when they hatch from the eggs.

Black Vultures or Coragyps Atratus are birds from the southeastern USA to South America. Black Vultures are all for family and make bonds that last their whole lives. Black Vultures live together, be it the breeding season or the rest of the year. They roost with large flocks of their relatives. The adults take care of their two offspring in a nest made in a tree hollow.

Geese or Anserini are birds found in Asia, Europe, and North America. There are about 50 different breeds of geese found all over the world, and all the species mate for life. There are a small number of instances when these geese are unfaithful to each other. They will go into a depression after losing a mate, which says something about these fierce birds. Partners even stay back with an injured or sick goose while the rest of the flocks fly away. While the females incubate the eggs, the males protect and provide. They will even fight with intruders.

Barn Owls or Tyto Alba have a very short life span, but they make most of it by staying together with their mates. Barn Owls remain faithful and caring with their partners all around the year.

Atlantic Puffins are known to breed with the same partner year after year. Atlantic Puffins do not naturally stay together the whole year but come back to each year during the mating season. A similar system is seen in albatrosses.

Sandhill Cranes use unison calling to attract mates and form bonds for life. Sandhill Cranes are migratory, and by the time the migration towards the north is complete, the pairs are made too.

Whooping Cranes and California Condors are other examples of birds that mate for life. In the case of the condors, if the pair is incompatible, the bird might try finding someone else. Though not unheard of, it is a rare phenomenon.

Pair of mute swans swimming down the river together.

Do birds get sad when their mate dies?

Several bird species in the world become depressed when their mate dies, while other species just search for new mates after a couple of days.

Birds feel what we humans feel, and they can grieve too. The species that mates for life feels the loss of a partner and mourns the whole life. Some monogamous species might soon look for a new mate after the first one dies. But, if a Barn Owl loses its mate, the bird might starve to death and die of a broken heart. This is how much their partners mean to them. Geese gets depressed after losing a partner and can starve for weeks. Birds have feelings, and they get very sad when they lose their soulmates.

Why is monogamy common in birds?

Monogamy is common in birds as the young need constant attention and care, and the parents provide their offspring with everything they desire.

The young of all birds are tiny and helpless and need the constant support of at least one parent in the family. In some bird species, both parents are known to provide support, including times when the mother cares for the young while the father protects the area and brings food. Like humans, birds also need affection from one another, even if only for a single breeding season. Monogamous birds are known to pair up for a nesting season, a breeding season, and can go longer to their whole life. Love blooms in birds, and isn't it wonderful?

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for birds that mate for life, then why not take a look at what are joggers or what are non-alphanumeric characters?

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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