Written by Paula Gomez Villalba, Communications Assistant
Valentine’s Day is dedicated to celebrating love and affection. But what is love? We’re getting philosophical here at CPAWS Yukon because love can take on many forms. Especially in the wild. This Valentine’s Day, learn what romance looks like for wildlife in the Yukon and beyond.
For each species featured, you can swipe right on their photo to watch them in action.
Flying over 40,000km for love is the definition of commitment. Arctic terns migrate farther than any other animal, traveling the equivalent of three roundtrips to the moon in their lifetime. Their journey is a love letter not only to finding a partner, but also to the wild and productive ecosystems on their Arctic breeding grounds.
Terns are skilled fliers, so it’s no surprise much of their courtship takes place in the air. They form monogamous bonds through aerial chasing, screaming, and food offerings. These romantic flights can be pretty loud and chaotic when there’s hundreds of terns in a colony looking for love.
Together forever, black-billed magpies are also monogamous. Their romance begins in the fall or winter with males displaying their iridescent green tail and delivering food to a begging female.
Teamwork is super important. Magpies build their nests together and once there’s eggs, the female incubates while the male continues delivering food. Bonding for these birds is all about food, a love language arguably recognized across all lifeforms.
Lynx are typically solitary and territorial, but that all changes around Valentine’s Day. Mating season starts mid-February when males start following females day and night, sometimes even wailing for attention. But the romance doesn’t last. Male lynx ghost their partners once they give birth, leaving them to care for the young until next Valentine’s Day rolls around.
Red-necked phalaropes are endangered in the Yukon, which means finding a mate for these shorebirds is all the more difficult. And unlike most bird species, it’s the female who is in charge. Phalaropes have reversed sex roles, females are larger and compete with each other for males.
Male phalaropes often play hard to get and can be picky, but with good reason! They’re the ones that will incubate eggs and care for the young. Females have to defend a territory from other females and swim in circles around the male to convince him to mate with her.
For sandhill cranes, music is the key to love. Pairs form lifelong bonds through a mating dance where they flap their wings, bow, jump, and squawk in unison. Performing this duet each year strengthens existing relationships too. Sandhill cranes dance before migrating, so they’re ready to build a nest together by the time they reach their breeding grounds.
The heart of Wood Frog literally starts beating again when it’s time for spring and breeding. After hibernating underground, female wood frogs emerge filled with thousands of eggs. Males call to attract females and battle for a chance to fertilize a female’s eggs as she lays them. Romance for wood frogs can be explosive, with multiple males sometimes piling on top of one female.
Finding a lover can be dangerous, some might say deadly. While bald eagles will mate for life, getting there involves falling for your partner, or rather, with them. Bald eagle courtship involves a special ritual called a death spiral. They lock talons while high in the air and fall, cartwheeling to the ground, separating just before reaching it. Thrill-seeking bald eagles aren’t afraid of domesticity though, pairs will also bond by using the same nest each year and adding to it each breeding season.
Did you learn something new? Share the love with a friend, partner, or family member.
Want to help fight for love and the species we featured? Consider making a donation to CPAWS Yukon. We work to conserve wild spaces in the Yukon that wildlife rely on to survive and breed.