Close-up of two swans with their heads together, making a heart shape.
Swans Mute Swans are predominantly monogamous and form long-lasting breeding pairs. © Shutterstock

Stories in New Jersey

Lessons in Love from Nature

New Jersey wildlife have a thing or two to teach us about romance!

Love is in the air, and not just for humans! Explore the courtship, grooming and everyday behaviors of some iconic New Jersey wildlife. Don't forget to take notes, as these species know the secret to lasting relationships.

A male and female cardinal with their beaks together to exchange food.
Cardinals Cardinals are non-migratory birds as they prefer to live within a mile of where they were born. © Linda Yvonne
A red male cardinal sitting on a branch.
Northern cardinal Northern Cardinals tend to sit low in shrubs and trees or forage on or near the ground, often in pairs. © Matt Williams

Northern Cardinals

Crimson male cardinals are not only perpetually suited up in the color of passion, but they are also on to what really warms the heart of their beloved: food and gifts! Cardinals, which pair up for life, engage in mate feeding as part of their quest for (and maintenance of) a companion. 

Two nuzzling bobcats in snow.
Bobcats Of all the wild cats in North America, the bobcat has the largest range © Melissa Groo


Dancing cheek to cheek is a bobcat-endorsed love strategy—they rub their faces on potential mates (as well as offspring) to signal "be mine!" 

Learn more about our work protecting bobcats in New Jersey.

Two barred owls are perched together in a tree.
Barred Owl Pair Courtship involves both male and female bobbing and bowing heads, raising wings, and calling while perched close together. © Shutterstock

Barred Owls

Barred owls understand the importance of commitment; they mate for life! They usually have a single clutch of two or three eggs each year. This species is one of many found at our South Cape May Meadows Preserve. Learn more about the owls found and banded at this preserve.

A large group of horseshoe crabs piled on top of each other all along the shore of a beach.
Horseshoe Crabs Horseshoe crabs are living fossils meaning they have existed nearly unchanged for at least 445 million years, well before even dinosaurs existed. © Frans Lanting
A pair of horseshoe crabs are spawning on the beach
Horseshoe Crabs In the late spring and early summer, horseshoe crabs arrive on the beaches to lay their eggs. © Lily Mullock

Horseshoe Crabs

There is a reason that horseshoe crabs have been around for 300 million years. They know the value of a moonlit stroll on the beach! 

Two black bears are standing up hugging each other.
Black Bears Black bears are the smallest species of bear found in North America © Shutterstock: Christopher MacDonald
Bear claw marks on a tree.
Bear Claw Marks Bears are known to mark territory by clawing tree trunks. This photo was taken at our Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve. © Lily Mullock/TNC

Black Bears

Studies show that hugging increases bonding for people—and maybe also for bears? Black bears hug each other as cubs when playing, and when adults as part of the courtship ritual. 

An American Woodcock is looking at the camera. The bird is brown, black, and white with dark brown eyes.
American Woodcock In Autumn, large numbers of American woodcock congregate in woodlands and thickets, where they feed heavily on earthworms to build up their body-fat reserves before crossing Delaware Bay and continuing south. © Damon Noe / TNC

American Woodcocks

Wisdom from woodcocks: a little effort goes a long way when it comes to impressing a mate. Males of this species are true winged wooers, staging an elaborate show of singing, aerial acrobatics and feather ruffling in pursuit of their love interest. 

American Woodcock Beginning in late March, males seek out woodland openings and clearings at dawn and dusk, when light levels are just right, to sing and display for females for about one hour.
Two adult red foxes are surrounded by snow.
Red Fox Courtship begins in the winter, where the foxes hunt together, play, and generally chase each other around. © Robert Peal
Two red fox pups are touching noses.
Red Fox Pups The pups stay in the den until they are about 4 to 5 weeks of age. © Ray Lee
Red Fox Courtship begins in the winter, where the foxes hunt together, play, and generally chase each other around. © Robert Peal
Red Fox Pups The pups stay in the den until they are about 4 to 5 weeks of age. © Ray Lee

Red Fox

Red fox pairs are lifelong partners, and even when mating season is over they meet to socialize and share food. Because no matter how long you've been together, making time for a one-on-one dinner is always a good way to reconnect. 

Two adult river otters are pictured. One of them is sniffing the other one.
River Otter Mating, which usually takes place during March or April, might take place on land, but is more likely to occur in the water. © Dmitry Azovtsev

River Otters

Good grooming habits are essential for making the right impression. River otters are fastidious about their coats, maintaining their natty appearance by rolling in snow, mud or vegetation. 
An osprey sits on its nest with its wings spread. Wetlands are in the background.
Osprey Osprey in a nest in New Jersey. © TNC
An osprey is flying with a fish in its talons.
Osprey When carrying their prey back to the nest, osprey will arrange the fish so that it is facing upright, head forward. © Shutterstock: Steve Bower


Leave the kids at home for your romantic date. Take it from paired-for-life osprey parents who let chicks rest in the nest while they fly off to hunt—the noisy calls, fishy demands, and spontaneous wing-spreading of your cute, but ungainly, offspring does nothing to enhance the mood. 

Read more about osprey recovery in New Jersey and check out highlights from our seasonal osprey nest cam at Cape May Meadows Preserve.

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