True Love: 16 Animals That Mate for LifePublished September 12, 2012
We’ve all heard animal-oriented expressions for cheating on a loved one, like alley cat, bird dog, cat call, dirty dog, lounge lizard, hound, rat, and wolf. But who are the members of the animal kingdom that are known for being faithful? Here’s a list of 16 animals that mate for life, critters that believe in true love and staying together forever:
Among the largest of flying birds with a wingspan up to 12 feet, the albatross is adept at soaring, diving, and pairing for life. Through elaborate breeding rituals including dancing, preening, pointing, and calling, they hone in on their choice for life partner. A divorce is very rare and only happens if breeding failed.
One of the ugliest animals ever, anglerfish look really pissed off all the time (maybe it’s because they live in the dark at the lonely bottom of the sea). Their heads are enormous, with teeth that are sharp and translucent. The female sports a piece of dorsal spine that sprouts out of their head above her mouth like a fishing pole. The tip is luminous and attracts bait. The male is way smaller by comparison and has no need for the “fishing rod.” With his sharp teeth he latches onto the female and fuses with her. He connects to her skin and bloodstream and loses his eyes and all his internal organs except his testes. Ew, that’s a lot to lose for love.
3. Bald Eagle
Females are larger than males but other than that, the two sexes have identical features. Their courting includes: mating calls and show-offy flying stunts like swooping, chasing, and twirling around. When they reach breeding age, they go back to where they were born and hook up with a mate. They stay together forever—unless one dies or if they’ve failed to make babies.
4. Barn Owl
These monogamous birds make quite a racket—loud rasps, beak snaps and tongue clicks. When they’re mad they hiss and screech. They’re big cuddlers and become emotionally attached to each other and to human handlers. Aw, love birds!
Waddlers on land yet graceful swimmers, these large rodents love to stay busy—hence the expressions “busy as a beaver” and “eager beaver.” They live by family values, sticking with their loving mate and busy-beaver offspring. After working up an appetite, beavers chow down on tree bark, leaves, twigs, roots and water plants. Sounds yummy… not.
Also known as buzzard and carrion crow, this bird rarely flaps its wings during flight, instead it soars and glides. Black vultures roost together in family units and are known for remaining faithful mates for life. And get this, if one is suspected of cheating, a community of vultures will gang up and attack the philanderer. Nice.
7. Brolga Crane
Standing with heads thrown back and beaks tilted skyward, these birds have a complex system of “cat calls” to attract their mates. The male lifts his wings over his back during their “unison calling” and the female keeps her wings folded by her sides. Males start with one call then the females reply with two calls. Both sexes engage in dancing, bowing, jumping, running, stick and grass tossing and wing flapping. I guess after all that effort it feels worth it to stick with your chosen mate forever.
There are two types of Condor vultures, the Andean Condor and California Condor. They can live for 50 years and they mate for life. The world’s oldest condor lived until the age of 100. They enjoy feeding on large dead meat like the carcasses of deer and cattle and can gorge themselves at one sitting and then not eat for days. If an egg disappears, they lay another one. Breeders take advantage of this to double reproduction rates, i.e., after an egg is taken away for research, or for human hand-rearing, the Condor lays a replacement egg. Hopefully this will help get them off of the endangered list.
Also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, the coyote travels in large groups but when they hunt they go in pairs. Coyote packs are smaller than wolf packs. The females feel randy for two to five days between late January and late March. That’s when they’re looking to choose their guy. Once they land him they stay monogamous for years, and sometimes for life. Coyotes have been known to mate with domestic dogs and create little “coydogs” and, on rare occasions, they’ve mated with wolves and made little “coywolves.” If a coyote is calling a pack together it howls one, long, high note. During the spring mating season, coyotes make high-pitched howls, yips, yelps and barks. Wow, talk about sweet pillow talk.
10. French Angelfish
These little swimmers are monogamous and stay together until death do they part. They live in shallow reefs and feed on yummy sponges and algae. These French angels have a useful predilection to clean other fishies—jack snappers, morays, grunts, surgeonfishes and wrasses. So, not only is their behavior angelic in that they help others, these angels also have a golden ring around their middle like a halo.
Apes that don’t monkey around when it comes to mating, gibbons live in small stable family groups. Males and females pair for life and their young offspring live with them until age 7 when they fly the coop. Every morning for about half an hour the gibbons wake up hooting and hollering to make sure no other gibbon invades their territory of 30–50 acres of rain forest. They spend most of their lives in trees, walking branches like tightropes or swinging lazily and gracefully from vine to vine. Nice work when you can get it, eh?
Known also as the sea hawk, fish eagle, or fish hawk, osprey tend to mate for life. These large raptors feed on fish and are highly adaptable. They can live almost anywhere as long as it’s near water. And get this, they shake themselves dry in the same way that dogs do. Osprey have been known to divorce, but only if their attempts at breeding have failed. Interesting to note: the female has a checklist for choosing a mate that includes nest quality, size and location. I like a woman who knows what she wants.
Many penguin species are monogamous and stay with the same mate for many breeding seasons. Penguins also make a terrific team as parents. Both males and females tend to their eggs and chicks. Penguins don’t court with boxes of chocolates and flowers, the penguin goes about wooing a mate by selecting a perfect pebble along the beach and then presenting it to the mate he or she has set their sites on. Awww, you can even buy perfect penguin pebbles at—you guessed it—www.perfectpenguinpebbles.com.
14. Prairie Vole
These ’lil rodents pair for life and spend their loving days huddled together, grooming each other, nest sharing, and raising their pups like a family. Though mostly monogamous animals, some of these “married” voles (both male and female), do like to get a little sex on the side now and then, but since it’s only done when and if the opportunity may arise, they both let it go, look the other way, and stay together.
Okay, so who doesn’t want to choose the right mate? Termites are no dummies, they indulge in a behavior called “mutual mate choice” to ensure long-term cooperative care and safety for their young. With termites, size matters. Males tend to go for the babes with big bodies and some extra fat—no emaciated Calvin Klein models for them. The females’ big booties tend to be better biologically for raising little rug rats (or should we say wood rats?). The females go for the men with big heads because these guys are better at ramming into anyone, or anything, that threatens their nest.
Ahhh, swans, the universal symbol of love. How many greeting cards have we all seen displaying beautiful white swans romantically interlocked via long graceful necks to form a loving heart shape? These magnificent creatures—like butterflies and sunsets—seem to have been created by artists. Swans are famous for their tendency to mate for life. Males who have lost their lasses can become so grief stricken that they fly away and never mate again! Sounds so tragically Shakespearean.
If you know of any other animals that mate for life please let us know by leaving a comment.