National Geographic
Menu

Animal Valentines: 5 of Nature’s Best Flirters

For some lovebirds in the animal kingdom, every day is Valentine’s Day. But how do mates win each other over?

A little flirting can go a long way … and frankly, it’s a heck of a bonding agent with a long-term partner, too. See if some of these amorous animals have any tips you can use on your valentine. (See “Valentine’s Science: Why Gauging Sexiness Is Sophisticated.”)

Rock His World  

If you want to capture his attention, hit him with a rock!

Photo of a capuchin monkey carrying a rock.
A bearded capuchin carries a stone in Brazil. Photograph by Dorothy M. Fragaszy, National Geographic Grantee

That’s the strategy of female bearded capuchin monkeys in Brazil’s Serra de Capivara National Park, which throw rocks at high-ranking males to get their attention, according to recent observations by researchers from the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil. (See video of capuchins throwing rocks.)

In two cases where the male in question was hit with the stone, he mated with the pitcher; however, there’s not enough data on the success of the females’ stone-throwing strategy to say anything definitive.

But the team noticed some throwers were more prolific than others: A female named Pedrita was responsible for 32 of the 53 rock-throwing events recorded in the study. You throw, girl! (Related: “‘Hercules’ Monkeys Lift Stones to Crack Nuts.”)

Capuchins don’t only throw stones—the monkeys also have embarrassingly familiar flirting tactics like pouting, posing, and touching the guy’s fur and running away.

Build Her a Castle

Cichlid fish that live in Lake Malawi in East Africa build sand castles or bowers as a way of impressing the ladies—and intimidating other males.

Photo of a Cichlid fish in Malawi.
A cichlid swims in Lake Malawi, Africa. Photograph by David Wrobel, Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Each of the 200 cichlid species build their castles in a slightly different shape.

The fish actually carry all that sand with their mouth (video), which should win them extra love points (if you don’t think so, you try it). (Related: “5 Animals That Are Awesome Architects.”)

Sing, Sing, Sing

Ask any teen heartthrob: The girls go nuts over good-looking singers, and the superb lyrebird is the Elvis of the feathered set.

Photo of a lyrebird singing.
A lyrebird sings. Photograph by Craig Dingle, Getty

Well, maybe a mix of Elvis and Rich Little: These astounding birds can imitate other birds’ songs, whole flocks of birds, and human sounds including crying babies, camera shutters, and chainsaws with such perfection they seem less like mimics and more like beaky tape recorders. (Video: “Bird Mimics Chainsaw, Car Alarm, and More.”)

Plus, the boys don’t skimp on the visuals: A male will build a circular “stage” up to 6.5 feet (about 2 meters) wide, where he’ll dance and manipulate his long tail feathers.

A team of Australian researchers recently found that the birds also coordinate their dances with their songs (watch a video of a lyrebird sidestep.)

Get four more of them, and it’s a billion-dollar bird boy band waiting to happen.

Stay in Harmony With Your Honey

The yellow fever mosquito is a bloodsucking agent of heinous diseases, bumpy bites … and romance.

Photo of a female aegypti mosquito.
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Photograph by Kallista Images, Getty

A 2009 study by researchers from Cornell University on Aedes aegypti found that males and females will adjust the frequency of their wingbeats until the sounds harmonize.

Other mosquitoes do this, but in Aedes aegypti, this “courtship duet” reached a frequency of 1,200 hertz (people hear in the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz).

It’s a surprising number, since male mosquito ears were thought to be deaf to sounds over 800 hertz (who knew mosquitoes even have ears? You’d think they’d realize how annoying they sound). (See: “Animal Pair Pictures.”)

At any rate, it’s rather sweet that something as nasty as a mosquito adjusts its tune to synch up with its mate. Let’s call it ewHarmony.

Spiff Up That Bachelor Pad

Bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea know that lots of ladies like a guy who can fix things up. The arbors, or bowers, they build to attract females are so large and elaborate they were thought to be kangaroo nests by early Australian explorers. (Related: “Australia’s Amazing Bowerbirds.”)

Photo of a bowerbird holding a paperclip in its beak.
A male great bowerbird male shows off a pink paperclip. Photograph by Tim Laman, National Geographic

The structure can look like a hut made of twigs or like a hallway of two neat rows of sticks. The guys then decorate with natural materials including shells, stones, and other birds’ feathers, as well as human sundries, from clothespins to hair ties to plastic packaging. (Video: “Bowerbird Lures Female With Ring.”)

The animals even paint the inside of their literal love nests with plant matter that has color and possibly flavor; if you still think bread bowls are a pretty cool idea, imagine a love shack you can taste.

So tell us: How do you attract a potential mate?

Follow Liz Langley on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Johar Yusuf
    Miri,Sarawak,Malaysia
    February 22, 3:06 am

    Honey you are unique.
    Wait,here’s my best friend,
    watch out that’s stone throwing………

  2. Angie
    Oklahoma
    February 19, 3:12 pm

    Looks like we learn from Mother. haha.

  3. saud
    Manama
    February 15, 12:37 am

    Homo Sapiens have retained some of these tactics during evolution………………….

  4. Subarna
    Nepal
    February 14, 10:35 pm

    Thank you Liz for posting and educating us.
    Subarna

  5. Liz Langley
    February 14, 5:59 pm

    Glad so many people are enjoying these animal flirts! Please check out the video of the superb lyrebird – what an astonishing mimic! Hearing them imitate a chainsaw is eerie (maybe not that romantic….but just fascinating).

  6. Beck Lincoln
    North Carolina
    February 14, 5:09 pm

    Withholding the remote compares to throwing rocks at your suitor? How about cutting the cable cord while a Duke basketball game is in session? Yes, I am now a divorcee due to my erratic behavior! Don’t mess with a man’s favorite sports team, or his favorite hole-y, 10-year-old t-shirt…you will not win your suitor!

  7. Igor trust
    Nigeria
    February 14, 3:53 pm

    Nature had it first…. God is a designer

  8. Homer Lê
    Salton City
    February 14, 7:07 am

    I have a ring neck dove and he can respond my “coo coo”: 3 times for seed ran out, 4 times for water empty! as so we communicate !… what a fascinating animal world of ours…. Love them, I am vegetarian for that …

  9. esther
    Kenya
    February 14, 6:02 am

    fascinating.

  10. Elizabeth ILLING
    Canada
    February 14, 1:03 am

    Hitting a prospective male suitor over the head with a rock is not all that different from what human females do.
    Withholding the TV remote or throwing empty beer bottles works just as well. If only they would throw diamonds!
    Happy Valentine’s

  11. Habiba Bata Mohammed
    Nigeria
    February 13, 2:53 pm

    good work

  12. pjmaynard
    Macon
    February 12, 11:16 am

    Fantastic! hope little walt likes the site

  13. JEFFERY UNDERWOOD
    ormond beach, fl
    February 9, 1:37 pm

    WE AS HUMANS HVE NOTHING OVER MOTHER NATURE.