Birds have childhood sweethearts that they stay with as adults

Whooping cranes form long-term monogamous relationships, and over half of couples first get together before they are both sexually mature

Many pairs of bird parents were childhood sweethearts. The majority of whooping crane couples begin making friends at least a year before they first breed together.

Most birds form monogamous couples, and bonded pairs often stick together for life. Little is known about how they form these long-term partnerships, but we know that some birds are already paired up when they arrive at breeding grounds.

Claire Teitelbaum at the University of Georgia in Athens and colleagues tracked a population of whooping cranes that were reintroduced in the eastern United States from 2001. Every bird is fitted with a transmitter, and they are closely monitored during the breeding season in Wisconsin.

Before mating in the spring, cranes perform courtship displays involving loud calls, leaping and flapping their wings. But the data reveal that they choose their partners much earlier.

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