Bird Love Stories
This Valentine's Day we wanted to share with you some of our favourite bird love stories. You may find yourself shocked or amused by the courting practices of our feathered friends, but one thing we all agree on is the urgent need to protect these species and their breeding grounds.
1. The Hooded Grebe's Courting Dance
Whilst this is truly a spectacle of nature, sadly these birds are Critically Endangered with fewer than 800 birds remaining. They face a daily struggle, predated by non-native American Mink and increasing numbers of Kelp Gull, killing both adults and chicks in their nests. Once the breeding season is over, the Hooded Grebe still faces danger as one of its main wintering grounds - the estuary of the Santa Cruz River - is threatened by badly planned hydroelectric dams (you can sign the petition against this threat here).
Action has been underway for five years to address these threats led by BirdLife National Partner and Species Guardian - Aves Argentinas and local Patagonian NGO - Ambiente Sur. Their dedicated team of colony guardians keep American Mink and Kelp Gull away, and protect nests from destruction by Rainbow Trout.
2. Penguins mate for life
What's that thing we tell all the singletons...that there's plenty more fish in the sea, right? Sadly, that's no longer the case for the African Penguin. This monogamous species is facing extinction due to depleted fish stocks, which means they're having to forage further away for food, leaving their lifetme mate and chicks behind for longer periods of time. But the BirdLife Partnership is working hard to create a safe and plentiful environment for them, including establishing a new colony in South Africa, with abundant fish stocks and safe nesting areas.
3. Snowy Owls and... Lemmings
All that's needed to reach the female Snowy Owl's cold heart is a lemming. The male projects himself into the air, holding a lemming, then upon descent he drops the rodent to the ground, before standing upright and fanning his tail feathers as the lady approaches.
Sadly, the Snowy Owl has recently been classified as Vulnerable to extinction in BirdLife's 2017 Red List update.
4. Red-Billed Buffalo-weavers
Male Buffalo-weavers, in particular the Red-billed species, are probably the randiest birds on the planet! Along with their wingman, they can copulate for half an hour and mate with up to 12 females. What's more, to increase the chances of successful fertilisation, the Buffalo-weaver has evolved a false penis directly in front of their cloaca, which is already an abnormally sensitive area for the bird.
Perhaps its efficient mating rituals are the reason the Red-billed Buffalo-weaver has such a thriving population in southern and eastern Africa!
5. Indian Peafowl - a Tail of True Love!
Peafowls are truly spectacular, and don't they know it! Males fan out their stunning, iridescent plumage to attract prospective Peahens. Although the Indian Peafowl is native to South Asia, you're likely to see then strutting around parks and gardens all over the world, as their beauty has historically driven wealthy landowners to want them in their own homes!
Donate to BirdLife's Nest Quest appeal - the best way of ensuring that we can continue protecting vital nesting sites with our Partners over the globe.
Sign the Petition - Add your name to the list of people calling for the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, to STOP the building of new bird threatening dams.
Watch and share the film - Filmmakers Michael and Paula Webster's (a.k.a Living Wild in South America) beatiful film, Tango in the Wind, tells the story of the Hooded Grebes' fight for survival in the Patagonian lakes.
BirdLife and its Partners are fighting to protect crucial breeding grounds from the urgent threats they face. With your support, we can use our skills and expertise to keep breeding grounds safe, so today’s babies can grow to raise families of their own in years to come.
Your support will help us to:
- Campaign for real change, to the people that matter, like our #LivingLand campaign. Fighting against intensive agriculture practices that have brought Europe’s farmland birds – such as the Lapwing – to the brink, with population declines of over 55% in recent decades. We’re using our influence and expertise to push for reform at the very top.
- Combat the threat of invasive predators - one of the leading causes of bird extinctions worldwide. Defenceless baby birds have no way of protecting themselves from these alien invaders, and often die in agony. But the situation CAN be reversed. We recently cleared five Pacific islands of invasive predators, and we’re already seeing evidence of rare birds bouncing back. We need your support to continue our work in threatened bird paradises such as Rapa Iti.
- Help us push for formal protection for the world’s most vital breeding grounds. These crucial habitats have been identified by BirdLife as Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas – a global network of over 13,000 sites. Nearly half of these sites lack full protection, but with your help, we can push for change, and continue co-ordinating critical conservation action on the ground.
Thank you to Michael and Paula Webster (BirdLife Species Champions for the Hooded Grebe) for their support and for providing the Hooded Grebe footage and images.