Will U B Mine?

By Ellen Lambeth

Like people, some birds show they care by offering gifts. Check out a few examples.

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Say, “I Do!”
What is this penguin doing with a stone in his mouth? He’s courting a female penguin. A man may ask someone to marry him by offering a diamond ring. But a male gentoo penguin proposes with a rock, which might be as precious as a gemstone to a female penguin. Keep reading for more.

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Rock On
Gentoos use stones and other stuff to build up the edges of their circular nests. If a male impresses a female by offering “the perfect stone” (or just by helping to collect them), she might let him be her mate! Sometimes the males fight over stones—or steal them from other nests. C’mon, guys—be nice!

You’re My Star!
This male flightless cormorant found a colorful sea star to take to his mate. She’ll accept his gift and add it to their seaweedy nest back on shore. Then off he’ll go, in search of more fancy bits of this and that.

Special Delivery
If you want to become a good parent, you should prove you’re up to the task. That’s why a male bird might offer some nifty nesting material, such as a stick or leafy branch. Maybe such a gift lets a mom-to-be bird know she can depend on him, whether the materials get used or not. For both blue-footed boobies and northern gannets, it’s probably the thought that counts.

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Free Meal
Raising a family is a tough job. By offering a gift of food, a male bird may let his mate know that he has the “right stuff” to help her out. The common kingfisher (top left photo) offers his mate a gift of fish. And the female Eurasian kestrel (bottom left photo) grabs a lizard that her mate caught and presented as a gift.

Never Go Without
Gifts of food can help a female bird choose the perfect mate. For a male great gray shrike, the bigger his food supply, the better his chances are of being chosen. Shrikes often store prey on thorns for later. Female shrikes can see right away which male might be the best provider.

High Style
“How do you like my beautiful creation?” asks this flame bowerbird. If he builds his bower just so, it might meet with the approval of a female bowerbird. The blue berry decorations out front add to its appeal. This stick bower is not a nest. It’s just a piece of art to impress a potential mate.

Do these gift-givers give you any ideas for your own gifts to give this Valentine’s Day?

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