'Owl' always love you - and other animals who mate for life
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‘Owl’ always love you – and other animals who mate for life

February 8, 2024

Love is in the air – and not just for humans! February marks the beginning of many wild animals’ mating season, many of them looking for a life-long mate.

Did you know these B.C. animals mate for life?

Two barn owls huddled together on a tree branch

Barn owls

Male and female barn owls often mate for life and may regularly use the same nest site each year. In addition to courtship flights and calls, male barn owls know that the way to a mate’s heart is through her stomach. When the males are courting, they spend extra time hunting to bring a tasty gift back to their mate. Nothing says “romance” quite like breakfast in nest!

In 2022, an elderly barn owl was lucky to be brought in for care at Wild ARC. We’re not sure what happened, but he was found bleeding and cold in a ditch, with a significant wound on his wing. This barn owl had been banded as a baby and was about eight years old when he came into care at Wild ARC. While eight years may not seem that old, barn owls have a life expectancy of just 2-4 years in the wild, making this handsome hooter an experienced elder!

Barn owl perched on a cedar branch with wings spread out

With specialized treatment and plenty of time to rest, this owl was able to go back to his wild home, ready to fly again! We were so grateful to give this owl a second chance, and who knows, maybe he had an equally elderly lady waiting for him to return?


Did you know beavers mate for life too? Well, I’ll be dam-med! Although many species of bird are known to mate for life, it’s more rare among mammals. Beavers live in small family units, starting with a mated pair and their kits. Each year, the colony normally consists of the two adults, any newborn kits, and the yearlings born the year before. Beavers will stay with their parents learning everything they need to survive on their own, while helping raise the new young kits. Fully mature at two years, the young beaver will then leave the family and “chews” a mate of their own.

Wild ARC doesn’t often see beavers in care, but when we do, they’re often in it for the long haul. For example, this young beaver kit pictured was admitted to Wild ARC in the spring of 2016. She was found alone along a riverside. A flood in that area most likely washed away her lodge, separating her from her family. A week-long effort to locate her family proved unsuccessful, so Wild ARC obtained special government permission to transfer her from the South Peace region to Metchosin on Vancouver Island as there were no local rehabilitation facilities who could care for her.

A young beaver at the start of her care journey in 2016.

Since young beavers would normally be with their families the first two years of their life, this girl had to remain under the specialized care of the professionals at Wild ARC until she reached maturity. Thankfully, almost two years to the day she was admitted, and just in time for Canada Day, the kit, now a fully grown beaver, was released back to where she was found in her natural habitat where she could look towards starting her own family.

Canada geese

Not only do Canada geese mate for life, they’re also dedicated co-parents. The male and female take turns with all their parenting duties, including protecting their nest, incubating the eggs, finding food, and co-parent the young goslings for up to 9 months. Practice makes perfect, and their success rate as parents increases every season they stay together.

Canada goose mother with goslings under wing
Photo credit: Sasha Stephanian

Geese will also help co-parent with other family groups – take a “gander” and you might see large groups of adults and goslings grazing together in the summer. Because of this parenting style, geese are much more willing to accept new goslings into their group. To a wildlife rehabilitator, this is important because this means it may be possible to incorporate orphaned goslings into other wild families.

Sometimes a life-long partnership isn’t all it’s “quacked” up to be. Canada geese live long lives – an average of 12, but up to 24 years! Older geese are more likely to “divorce” from a partnership – often taking a year or two off before mating and nesting again.

Bald eagles

Bald eagles also mate for life, which is a long time for birds who live up to 20 years or more! These are birds that do actually grow old together – returning to the same nest site year after year. Avid birdwatchers often know the local pairs of eagles, and look forward to their return each year.

Eagles build impressive nests out of a series of large branches. The nests have to be both deep and wide enough to fit the large adult birds and any growing eaglets. Not only do they return to the same nest, they also add to it each year. The ever-growing nest is truly the symbol of a strong partnership. One nest in Ohio was used for more than thirty years – measuring nearly 4 m tall, and estimated to weigh two tonnes!

Photo credit: Susanne de Montreuil

Watching an eagle courtship display is equal parts awe-inspiring and nerve-wracking. To impress each other, the male and female will soar high into the air, and then engage in a stunning display of locking talons and spiralling dramatically towards the ground. Sometimes, this can even result in injury.

This may have been the case for a bald eagle that was admitted to Wild ARC in 2022. We’re not sure if they were in a territory dispute with a rival, or a courtship display with a potential mate, but their injuries were consistent with a crash landing. Bald eagles are one of the largest patients that Wild ARC admits, but our expert rehabilitators were ready. After their wounds had healed enough, the eagle took some time stretching their wings and testing their flight muscles in our large outdoor flight pen. After just a short while in care, they were ready to return back home to the wild and maybe give courtship another chance!

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