10 animal courtship behaviors

1. Prairie voles

Prairie voles are almost the epitome of a happy, healthy animal relationship. The creatures, about the size of a hamster, only live one-two years, but they are monogamous during that time. Once they meet a member of the opposite sex, pheromones help them to ready for mating. After mating, they show love by huddling together and even have been seen breathing in unison, and studies have even shown they give “hugs and kisses” when one’s partner is stressed.

Prairie voles are popular prey for snakes, hawks and the like, but about 80 percent of voles that lose a partner do not find another.

(10 animals you didn’t know mated for life)

2. White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer are polygamous, meaning they mate with more than one deer of the opposite sex, don’t build family units and don’t bond.

Breeding season is called rut (learn more about that here), and it is centralized on scent. A buck will find a doe that is ready to breed and will stay with her for several hours or even days. Sometimes females will make a buck chase her before she will agree to mate.

3. Cottontail rabbits

Cottontail rabbits are also polygamous, and their courtships can be quite obvious to those that are paying attention. Prior to mating, males and females will “cavort,” which includes running, racing, hopping or even fighting. Some scientists think these athletics are so the rabbits prove to each other that they are healthy and strong.

Photo of a cottontail rabbit

4. Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swan courtship rituals look like couples bowing to each other before a dance at a fancy ball. Swans select a life mate about two-four years old, and they will swim together, head bob, blow in the water and sing during this courtship time.

Trumpeter swans may not nest after courtship but can spend a couple of years together before the first attempt at procreation.

5. Osprey

Osprey are almost always monogamous, although they will replace a partner if one gets sick or can’t reproduce anymore. When courting at the nest site, a male will dangle his legs with a fish or nesting material in his talons and will fly overhead while calling and circling back to the nest.

During courtship, males will also feed females, and she will ask for food through her body movements — holding her body horizontally, puffing up her crest feathers and keeping her wings close to her body. Courtship feeding doesn’t occur at the same time as procreation though.

6. Coyotes

Coyotes are seasonally monogamous, and pairs may stay together longer than a year. Pairs may show courtship behaviors such as grooming each other, playing and wrestling, chasing each other or bumping and hip pushing each other. They will also sniff and lick each other, and a female may even position herself in front of her partner to tell him she’s ready.

Photo of a coyote

Sitting in Silence

7. Great-horned owls

Male great-horned owls begin searching for a mate early in the year by calling, swelling their chests and bowing to females. An attracted female will respond by returning bowing and hooting, and then a mated pair may stay together for years or even the rest of their lives.

8. Bobcats

A female bobcat will let males know she is ready to breed by rubbing her body on trees and spreading urine. She may even call loudly so that males can find her.

(9 adorable Iowa mammals)

Once a male approaches an agreeable female, she will begin vocalizing, will arch her back and circle around the male, and then they will wrestle and chase each other. This behavior and breeding may continue for more than two weeks, and then the male leaves and the female raises the young.

9. Northern leopard frogs

Northern leopard frogs emerge from hibernation early and begin breeding rituals right away. A male will find a breeding location, far from other males, and will begin making long, snore-like sounds to call in a female. She will swim in the water, and the male with hang onto her back for two-three days. When she releases eggs, he will fertilize them in the water.

10. Snapping turtles

Snapping turtles have a long mating season, actively breeding April-November. A pair will begin courtship by facing each other and moving their heads from side to side.

A female doesn’t have to mate every year. She can store sperm in her body to fertilize eggs even in years when she doesn’t mate.

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