Chocolates, flowers, mushy cards—people go to a lot of trouble to impress their Valentines. That’s nothing, though, compared with some of the weird, wacky—even romantic things wild animals do to attract a mate. With most critters, it’s the boys that work hard to impress the girls. Whether they have fins, feathers or fur, these fellas know how to charm the chicks!
When they’re looking for love, male bluegill dress to impress. This fashionable fish sports emerald-green sides, a bright yellow belly and reddish-orange chest when Cupid comes calling. He’ll fan out a nest in the mud with his tail and hang out nearby to put out the vibe. If a female likes what she sees, she’ll give him a fins-up and be his swimming sweetie.
Cute and cuddly doesn’t cut it for bunny babes. Female cottontails want a tough guy for a boyfriend. To show how tough they are, male rabbits, called bucks, fight each other. During a rabbit rumble, males stand up and box each other with their front paws. They bite, growl and thump the ground with their hind feet. Sometimes one rabbit leaps into the air and tries to kick the other in the head like a little flop-eared ninja. The rabbit that loses stays lonesome; the winner gets the girl.
With fireflies, it’s the flashiest fella that gets the girl. A male’s twinkling tail acts like a bright neon sign. “Here I am,” it flashes. “Do you like me?” If he’s lucky, a female will answer back with a single flash. She’s pretty picky about who makes the cut. If her beau doesn’t flicker often or long enough, the sparks won’t fly.
Prairie chicken gals like a guy who knows how to get his groove on. When a male wants to strut his stuff, he droops his wings, spreads his tail and stamps his feet. If a hen is watching, he’ll stick out his neck, lift long feathers behind his head and inflate bright orange air sacs on his throat. It looks funny to us, but not to a prairie chicken chick. She thinks he looks like a hunk—a hunk who knows how to shake his tail feathers.
Spring peepers are only about an inch long, but these little frogs have big voices! On warm spring days, male peepers pump up the volume to call to a mate. With each highpitched peep, they say, “Come on over to my lily pad.” Persistence pays off. Peepers that call often get more dates.
Male luna moths like their ladies to smell good. Female lunas release natural perfumes, called pheromones. A tiny whiff of this powerful love potion makes the boys come flying from miles away. They have to flutter fast, though. Luna moths emerge from their cocoons without mouths and are unable to eat. Love may be sweet, but it won’t keep a luna alive longer than a week.
When romance grips a male roadrunner, he hunts for a gift, but not flowers or chocolates. To charm a female roadrunner, he’s got to bring her a tasty lizard or grasshopper. He’d better find a plump and juicy one, too. If his girl doesn’t like the present, she won’t eat it, and he’ll be out of luck.
Male praying mantises know the way to a female’s heart is through her stomach. That’s why they take their main squeeze out to eat during courtship. What’s on the menu? Sometimes the male mantis! If the female is hungry, she’ll bite off the male’s head and eat him for dinner. Sometimes, love hurts.
Male bald eagles swoop, cartwheel and somersault through the air to show off for lady eagles. If a female likes what she sees, she flies over to hold hands with her dashing daredevil. Then, the two take the plunge—literally. With their talons locked, the eagle couple plummets to the ground. Just before they go splat, they let go and swoop back into the clear blue sky. For eagles, just like people, love has its ups and downs.
Nichole LeClair Terrill