Tonawanda News

February 10, 2014

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Bird love is even better than puppy love

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — According to the internet, which is never wrong, puppy love synonyms include calf love and kitten love. It doesn’t matter what baby animal we are talking about, I have never been a fan of the phrase “puppy love.” It implies a crush and a passing or fading emotion — an emotion often felt by a preteen or tween. Those who adopt and purchase puppies need to know that in a few years, that adorable peach fuzz body, and squishy face with huge make-your-heart-melt eyes is going to be a large gaseous body with a slobbering face, not too different from human relationships.

There is no room for shallow, short-term love interests here for Critter Companion readers.  Before you commit to a new pet, think about your future and theirs.

Puppy love is in our culture. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote short stories about puppy love and artists Dolly Parton, Barbara Lewis, Paul Anka, Donny Osmond and an appropriately named rapper, Lil’ Bow Wow, all have songs titled “Puppy Love.” But, instead of puppy love we should strive to be like love birds.

Love birds are a small African or Madagascar parrot which are popular as pets. When kept by themselves they can become quite found of their owners. Their name comes from their behavior in the wild. Although the nine species of love birds are social and live in flocks, they usually pair up for life and can be seen sitting with their mate affectionately preening one another. This behavior can be problematic when kept as pets. The pairs will defend their territory (enclosure) to anyone (caregiver) that they think is a potential threat.

Love birds are cute but the most serious relationships, when it comes to birds, take place among our national symbol the bald eagle. Bald eagles can live between 40 and 50 years and they too are generally monogamous. Once a bald eagle finds a successful place to raise their young, they keep returning to the same nesting spot year after year.

In St. Petersburg, Florida in the early 1960’s one of the largest bird nests was found and it belonged to a pair of bald eagles.  It became so large that it made the tree that it was in fall over. Scientists went over to the nesting site and picked up all of the sticks and measured and weighed it. It measured almost ten feet wide and twenty feet deep, which is bigger than most people’s living rooms, and weighed over two tons. For those of you who are not familiar with how much two tons weighs, hippos and white rhinos weigh a little more than that. If you imagine a rhino up in the tree, it is no wonder why the tree would fall over.

The really cool thing about that is the scientists think it took that same pair of bald eagles maybe 30 or 40 years to get it that big. They kept building on to the existing nest, every year stick by stick. It is like us living at the same house, with the same partner – you are going to accumulate a lot of stuff.

Taking a love lesson from nature, especially from a majestic bald eagle, seems like a solid idea. Ritualistic gifts even if they are as simple as a stick, are important to a relationship as well as sharing a common hobby, such as collecting sticks. Now you just have a little less than two weeks to find a stick for Valentine’s Day.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior and is a certified professional bird trainer through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.