Newsroom Midwest Region

Ten Interesting Lovebirds You Can See in the Midwest

While not all birds mate for life, they certainly have some interesting rituals!

February 12, 2016

Whooping cranes

Whooping crane pair. Photo by Steve Gifford.

Whooping cranes are known for their graceful courtship dances. Pairs build nests together by collecting vegetation in shallow marshes. Mates remain together for life.

Bald eagles

Bald eagle pair. Photo by Jason Mrachina/Creative Commons.

It is believed that bald eagles mate for life, unless one passes or breeding attempts have repeatedly failed. Courtship flights are elaborate and often include locking talons and free falling. Both birds provide nest materials, but the female places most of them.

Piping plovers

Piping plover pair. Photo by Joel Trick/USFWS.

Male piping plovers create several nests by making shallow impressions to present to females. Males then toss stones and perform aerial dives to impress females. Females will test out different nests before making a choice and starting a family.

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swan pair. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

Trumpeter swan pairs are thought to mate for life, though some do switch it up. Others will not mate again if their mate has been lost.

Saw-whet owls

Northern saw-whet owl pair. Photo by Herbert Lange/Wisconsin DNR.

Female northern saw-whet owls incubate eggs, raise young and keep the nest clean while males provide all of the meals. After a few weeks, mom leaves the nest, but dad continues bringing food to the young.

Northern Cardinals

Northern cardinal pair. Photo by Herbert Lange/Wisconsin DNR.

Female northern cardinals build nests, but males help scout locations and contribute materials. Pairs usually remain together throughout the winter, but may occasionally split up the following season.


Mallard pair. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

Mallards match up in the fall or winter. When spring comes, pairs search for nesting locations together. After finding the perfect spot, females will make a small depression in the soil and add vegetation.

American kestrels

American kestrel pair. Photo by Steve Gifford.

American kestrels are cavity nesters that use woodpecker holes or nest boxes. Males search for cavities to present to females. Once a location is decided, they’re ready to raise a family.

Barred owls

Barred owl pair. Photo by Steve Gifford.

Barred owl pairs likely mate for life. Couples may scout potential nesting cavities up to a year in advance. These owls don’t wander far, so ideal nests may be reused throughout the years.

Greater prairie-chickens

Greater prairie-chickens. Photo by Greg Kramos/USFWS.

Male greater prairie-chickens gather to perform elaborate displays to compete for females. They inflate air sacs on the sides of their necks and snap their tails. Displays can carry on for more than a month!