By Stacey Scott
Photo: Fred land
The ruffle of a feather, an elaborate dance, long swims on the lake and a noisy serenade; love is in the air for Canadian wildlife. Courtship, mating rituals and even long-term relationships are integral to maintaining healthy species populations in the wild. Although animal courtship may not consist of flowers and candlelit dinners, some species show their romantic sides through both traditional and somewhat bizarre signs of affection.
Two of a Kind
Canada geese have a wide population range, and gaggles of these large birds can be found in parks, farmers’ fields and waterfronts across Canada. During its second year of life, the goose finds a suitable mate, and the pair remains together for life. However, contrary to popular belief, if one member of the pair is killed, the other will find a new mate.
A Harem Built for a King
The Atlantic walrus can be found in the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Bering Sea, James Bay and the Labrador coast and has been known to live on coasts and beaches during the warm summer months. The male Atlantic walrus is extremely territorial in nature. During breeding season, the males form large harems full of female walruses, which they fiercely protect. Should another male walrus dare to invade this sacred harem, a bloody battle ensues after which the winner claims the loser’s females as his own.
The common loon can be found across most of Canada, arriving in pairs on northern lakes in the spring as soon as the ice thaws. Generally speaking, they are solitary nesters who prefer to make their homes in small lakes; however, larger lakes may have more than one pair of breeding loons, with each pair occupying a bay or section of the lake. Courtship and mating are very date-like; pairs take long swims on the lake and make short dives together. Eventually the male leads the female to a suitable spot on land to mate, and soon after, nest-building begins. Until recently, loons were thought to mate for life; however, recent banding studies have shown that loons sometimes switch mates after a failed nesting attempt.
The prairie vole can be found mainly in the dry grassland plains of southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta. Unlike other, more promiscuous voles, the prairie vole is monogamous. These social creatures form life-long bonds with their partners and showcase their affection by grooming each other, sharing nests, raising pups together and generally showing a high level of affectionate behaviour towards each other.