Love is in the Air

Posted By Wolf Ridge Naturalist
April 7, 2017

This time of the year in northern Minnesota we are witnessing some interesting behavior from the birds. Though seemingly unusual, these visuals and sounds are all typical of mating behaviors. All birds have their own unique songs and actions, but some highlights around this area include that from Common Ravens, Bald Eagles, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Ruffed Grouse.


Currently, there is a Raven’s nest among the cliff-side of Wolf Ridge’s own Raven Lake. Common Ravens, when looking for a mate, engage in aerial acrobatics with a series of sudden rolls and wing-tucked dives. Similarly, Bald Eagles also engage in aerial stunts, though even more intense. To test their partner’s biological fitness, they partake in stunts called “cartwheeling,” or the “death spiral,” where they lock talons in midair as they spiral towards earth, at the last second releasing and avoiding impact.


The Pileated Woodpecker also has some visual displays, though not as extravagant as that of the Common Raven or Bald Eagle. During mating season, the males position their wings back into a V-shape, “dance” (bow, scrape, step sideways around a female bird), and produce a loud drumming noise through a “high call” vocalization of 6-8 “cuks” with the last being a lower pitch. The Ruffed Grouse also display themselves with a banded fan-shaped tail and their puffed out neck ruff during courtship. Their mating ritual also resembles a drumming sound. The distant beating noise is produced by compressing air underneath its wings. Most of the males do this on a log, but it can also be done on other surfaces.


By Erika LeMay, Brooke Piepenburg, & Jarrod Klopp




2 Responses to Love is in the Air

  1. Ken Hafften says:

    I have had a pileated woodpecker pair visit my deck suet feeder all winter, sometimes at the same time. Do pileated woodpecker mate for life?

  2. Jesse Ross says:

    Lucky you! It’s not unusual to have a pair visiting your feeders, but it would be strange to have more than two sharing the territory that includes your feeders. Pileated woodpeckers do mate for life, though if one dies, the other will find a new partner. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great website if you want to explore more. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pileated_Woodpecker/id