Romance Is for the Birds

At first blush, birds might not seem romantic. But if you’ve ever called a cuddling couple “a pair of lovebirds,” you’re part of a long tradition of equating birds with romantic love. In fact, before Chaucer scored a literary hit during the Middle Ages with The Canterbury Tales, he wrote a long poem about birds gathering to choose their mates on Valentine’s Day. (Synopsis: They twitter on about finding the perfect partner.)

Although most birds don’t mate for life, a few species actually do form lifelong pair bonds, mating and raising chicks together year after year. If one of the pair dies, the other usually searches for a new mate. And if two young birds don’t manage to produce chicks after a few tries, they may undergo what biologists call a “bird divorce” and look for luckier partners.

Bird Love smallSo which bird species mate for life? Tufted puffins, the sea birds with a punk rock haircut that appear on a new 2013 stamp, make the list, as do mute swans and California condors. Bald eagles, the symbol of the United States, also couple up. Before choosing a mate, bald eagles practice a courtship ritual known as the “cartwheel display.” A male and female bald eagle grip each other’s talons and twirl through the air together, taking their bond for a spin before settling down for good.

Whooping cranes court in a more human way, performing elaborate dances together before making their choice. Appropriately enough, barn owls, known for their heart-shaped faces, also mate for life. Barn owls become especially attached to their mates, or to their human handlers if they don’t have a mate. If you’re in the mood for an unconventional love story this February, try picking up Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien, a memoir about a woman’s bond with the barn owl that she raises from a chick.

This entry was posted in Animals, Love, Stamp Series, Wildlife and tagged , , , by USPS Stamps. Bookmark the permalink.

About USPS Stamps

The Postal Service™ is proud of its role in portraying the American experience to a world audience through the issuance of postage stamps and postal stationery. Each year the Postal Service issues commemorative stamps reflecting subjects of national significance and appeal. More than 160 years of stamp development has yielded an incredible archive of imagery and commentary reflecting American culture and society. Even in this fast-changing world, stamps are still a versatile and convenient method of postage. And stamp collecting is a lifetime hobby that is fun and educational for all ages. Stamp collecting is easy to start without a big investment. It is also a great way to learn about the world and its many wonders, opening the door to an exciting universe of history, science, geography, the arts, technology, and sports. Our mission is to provide universal service that is prompt, reliable, efficient, affordable, and self-sustaining. Throughout its history the Postal Service has grown with the nation, binding it together by ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has the same ability to communicate regardless of technological change.