Together For Life
Inside the Outdoors, May 23
, 2014

Upon seeing two doves sitting together on a telephone wire, curiosity was raised just whether one of these birds had found a temporary mate, or was this a ‘love at first sight’ pairing that would last ‘until death doeth part?’

Stephen P. Rogers, collection manager of section of birds and section of amphibians and reptiles for Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, was contacted and this is what he said:

“While I am not a mourning dove expert, from what I read on the web from various sources is that they do form a very strong pair bond and will remain together given no death by either of the partners. When one does die, though, the remaining bird will choose another and continue on,” he stated. “In a dove’s life, death is common and is likely most doves will have to find replacements, perhaps multiple times, before they finish their life span. Technically though, without death occurring, mourning doves appear to mate for life.”

The question was raised, “Are there any other birds to your knowledge that also mate for life?”

Rogers stated, “A fair number of larger birds do mate for life, most notably swans and geese, but some raptors, puffins and others. If a Canada Goose mates for life, and spends a fair amount of time in goose years with a mate, and then one dies, the remaining mate may not choose another to breed with, but may. That is true mating for life.”

From mag.audubon.org we read, “Mute swan pairs reportedly stay together for life. However, divorce does occur in less than 3% of mates that breed successfully and 9% that don’t. They re-mate when a partner dies; how quickly this happens depends on the survivor’s gender. Females find a new male within as few as three weeks. Males, however, tend to wait until the following fall or winter – allowing time to defend their nests,” writes Michele Berger.

“Atlantic puffins don’t breed until they’re between three and six years old. Once they do, however, they stick with their partners for good, returning to the same burrow each season, sharing egg-incubating and parenting duties, even performing what’s known as billing, during which the birds rub together their beaks,” Berger stated.

In keeping with the question, “Are there others that mate for life?” Jack Lucus, land management supervisor of the Pennsylvania Game Commission added to Rogers’ comments about pairing.

“There are a handful of creatures worldwide,” he said. He, too, noted swans, but added “black wolves, vultures, and bald eagles.” He continued, “The wolves are non-native to Pennsylvania.” He sighted Wisconsin as a state where they are living. Various websites back the fact that wolves pair together for their entire lives.

Concerning black vultures, the website, www.allaboutbirds.org, backs up Lucus’ knowledge about these birds pairing together for years. It states, “Black Vultures are monogamous, staying with their mates for many years, all year round.” Other sites state “life.”

“The symbol of the United States, the bald eagle, mate for life unless one of the two dies,” so states Michele Berger, also from the website, www.printfriendly.com. Other creatures that live together for life noted in this website include Laysan albatrosses, scarlet macaws, whooping cranes and California condors.

Further investigation revealed that the follow creatures, both land roaming and aquatic, live lives together once they have found their ‘soul mates.’ These include beavers, prairie voles, penguins, barn owls, French angelfish, termites, gibbons and shingleback stinks.

“Gibbons are rare, small, slender, long-armed, tree-dwelling apes. These very acrobatic primates live in Southeast Asia. Gibbons are arboreal; they spend most of their lives in trees. Because they are so dexterous while moving in the trees, almost no predators can catch them. There are nine species of gibbons, including the siamang, which is the largest and darkest gibbon. Because of the rapid deforestation of their habitats, gibbons are an endangered species (www.enchantedlearning. com).

“Shingleback skinks,” another creature one does not hear anything about in our neck of the woods, “are very common reptiles of the drier woodlands and plains of southern Australia. Large, rough scales give this blue-tongued skink the appearance of a pine cone. If the heavy body armor isn’t enough to put off potential predators, this skink has a further trick: its short and stumpy tail resembles its head and can be detached in times of dire need. This is a last resort, as the tail is used as a vital fat store during the winter (www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Tiliqua_rugosa).

And to think that this may be just the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes, points man in the direction of awe, that God has created many more creatures than we have knowledge, that finds a mate and then stays with it throughout the duration of time. That is definitely mind boggling. Wouldn’t it be admirable if the most intelligent species, human beings, could follow in the footsteps of those which are said to be less so in the animal kingdom?


- Paul J. Volkmann
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