Lovebirds Going Steady: Palawan’s Top 10

Valentine’s Day is considered by many as one of the most romantic days of the year as it celebrates love and relationships. Humans from varying cultures like to think of themselves as a faithful species but when it comes to loyalty and fidelity, several animals present better examples of how to maintain a relationship. Although monogamy and lifelong pair bonds are generally rare in the animal kingdom, here’s a list of the lovebirds—REAL birds—that pull it off:

10. There’s no place like home for Pacific swallows! These birds select nesting sites close to where they were born and raised. And not only are they loyal to their hometown, they’re also loyal to their partners!

Up or down?
Pacific swallows (Hirundo tahitica), by Lip Kee

9. Courtship is no problemo for our male swiftlet! Impressing the female with his swooping flight skills and breathtaking aerial displays are just part of the bigger plan—a way to the female’s heart and a family to start. [Edible nest swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga) photo by Paul B. Jones.]

Edible nest swiflet (Collocalia fuciphaga), by Paul B. Jones

8. Exclusively dating: that’s their status! Although sunbirds don’t bond for life, they still remain faithful for the duration of their relationship. These birds don’t believe in “no strings attached” and aren’t a fan of on-the-side flings. [Lovely sunbird (Aethopyga shelleyi) photo by Nigel Voaden.]

Lovely sunbird (Aethopyga shelleyi), photo by Nigel Voaden

7. Leafbirds are excellent natural mimics of other species. But when it comes to matters of the heart, these birds should be the ones mimicked. They form pairs that remain monogamous during the breeding season. When in a relationship, they do not indulge in extra-marital affairs. Maybe it’s time humans started mimicking them.

Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia)
Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia), by Lip Kee

6. “Two heads are better than one”—true indeed for our dear drongos! Courtship doesn’t just involve the male showing off, both sexes do head-bobbing, bowing, duetting and counter-singing! And it doesn’t stop there! The male and female drongos share responsibilities in building the nest, incubating the eggs, feeding the young and defending the territory. Sweet!

Spangled Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus)
Spangled drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus), by David Midgely

5. Ever wondered why weddings involve the couple releasing a pair of pigeons? Or why on the second day of Christmas, true love sent two turtle doves? It’s because these flying creatures share an eternity of monogamous dove love! Mated pairs of doves and pigeons typically breed in successive seasons throughout their lives!

Green Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula aenea)
Green imperial pigeon (Ducula aenea), by Lip Kee

4. Red is seen as the color of love. But even if black-naped orioles are undeniably yellow, their love lives are as striking as their color! These birds sustain lifelong associations with their partners. Ahhh…Yellow. Must be because of the sunshine they bring into each other’s life!

Black-naped Oriole  (Oriolus chinensis)
Black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis, by Lip Kee

3. Maybe avian communities hold wedding ceremonies! These white-bellied sea eagles sure meant what they said during their vows! They remain faithful lifetime partners for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do they part.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle
White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), by Sergey Yeliseev

2. Like most parrots, Philippine cockatoos also form pairs that last a lifetime. These hopeless romantics consider cleanliness as an important part of their relationship and they find the perfect quality time spent while grooming each other! As these birds would say, hygiene is the way to a healthier relationship!

1. Of course, our Palawan endemics won’t be left behind! Did you know that during the nesting season, the female Palawan hornbill is kept inside the tree hole with the eggs while the male forages for food? True story! The male uses mud to block the opening of the nesting hole but leaves a small space enough to fit his bill into for transferring food. A true padre de familia, he strives hard to make sure he has something to put into his family’s stomachs!

These birds teach us important lessons about love and fidelity, but some of these birds might not be around for future generations to learn from. So during this love month, let’s extend our love to other creatures we share this planet with. Let’s love birds, love life, and love nature.

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