Regarding matters of love, I trust many of our animal friends, especially these sweet roseate spoonbills and other birds that mate for life. Then again, the natural world also features its share of preening and downright aggression — witness the hippo, who sprays his future mate with feces. Lovely!
Valentine’s Day has long taken various cues from nature. Long before the Roman emperor Gelasius, and then the Catholic church, proclaimed February 14th a holy day named for the martyred St. Valentine (who refused to forsake Christianity while in prison and sent love letters signed “from your Valentine” to the jailer’s daughter), the Romans celebrated mid-winter with Lupercalia fertility festivals, in which young Roman males sacrificed goats to Lupercal, the wolf deity, before frolicking in goatskin loincloths and striking young women with goatskin thongs. Geoffrey Chaucer and the poets of the Medieval era linked valentine symbolism to birds, and specifically lovebirds, whom they observed beginning their mating rituals in early spring.
Here are a few fun nature valentine links. Happy Day of Love!
Till Death Do Us Part: Birds that Mate for Life, Audubon Magazine
Love in the Wild: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Flickr Set
Bizarre Animal Mating Rituals, Science Discovery
How Seabirds Send Letters to their Mates, National Wildlife Federation
A Holiday for Real Animals, National Wildlife Federation
Valentine’s Day, a Holiday for the Birds, Audubon Magazine
10 Interesting Lovebirds to See in the Midwest, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Midwest
Why is Love Related to the Heart-Shaped Symbol?, Aphrodite, Hub Pages
Hearts in Nature: A Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt, Slow Family Online
How Green is Your Love Life? Sierra Club Quiz
Photos: Roseate Spoonbill Courtship Dance, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, FL, Michael Rosenbaum; Atlantic Puffins (who court in groups), David Ian Roberts; Swans, Unknown; Week-old black-footed ferret kits born at the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in WY, Kimberly Tamkun/USFWS; Cardinal Courtship, Howard Cheek; Lovebirds, Unknown; Sea Otters Holding Hands (to prevent drift while sleeping), Joe Mess.