Monday, December 31, 2012



597.  Which birds mate for life?  It has been proved that some birds remain paired for a long time and it is supposed that some of these mate for life.  There are definite records of captive swans and geese that never remated after the partner died.  On the other hand, there are cases of Canada geese actually changing mates for no apparent reason, and many cases where the surviving individual of a pair remated.  It is obvious, therefore, that the subject needs considerable study before unequivocal statements can be given for a species as a whole.  Some ornithologists interpret the term "mating for life" quite loosely to mean that the bird remains faithful as long as the mate lives, and upon the death of a mate a new partner may be accepted.  Various authors have stated that eagles, hawks, cranes, owls, parrots, ravens, crows, magpies, chickadees, titmice, wrentits and others mate for life.  Some of these statements are bases on the circumstanital evidence that certain pairs were mated for many years. [2]


[1] Birds on a Wintry Tree, Song dynasty (960–1279), 13th century
Formerly Attributed to Lidi (Chinese, ca. 1110–after 1197)
Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on silk.
9 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. (23.8 x 24.1 cm)
Two magpies, their feathers fluffed up against the cold, represent a warm reminder of the inevitability of spring. Such pictures of paired birds were often given as birthday gifts to elderly couples. The white heads of the birds and their long tail feathers are symbols of longevity, as is the ancient tree upon which they perch, for despite being covered with snow, the tree has already sprouted new growth—a sign of its enduring vigor.

[2]  Mate for Life text excerpted from:  1001 Questions Answered About Birds by Allan D. Cruickshank and Helen G. Cruickshank (Toronto, General Publishing Company, 1958).

[3] Tapestry panel with the character for longevity (shou), Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 18th century China
Silk and metallic thread tapestry (kesi) Overall 95 x 57 1/2 in. (241.3 x 146.1 cm)
Woven in gold with the character for longevity (shou), this bold eight-foot-tall tapestry panel was appropriate for display at birthday celebrations. The character is sensitively expressed, preserving a sense of the calligraphic brushstrokes used to write the character.

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