The World’s Top 10 Animals that Mate for Life

Written by Abby Parks
Updated: October 3, 2022
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Key Points

  • Shingleback lizards are unusual Australian animals that mate for life and have live births of their young. Male and female pairs share parenting duties and sometimes walk side-by-side while nuzzling.
  • Mute swans are the famously monogamous waterfowl that couple up for good around the age of three.
  • The faithful marmoset monkeys live with their mates for most of their 12-16-year life span. The pairs groom each other and share food, while the males care for the babies.

What animals mate for life? There are many creatures in the animal kingdom that have different mating partners throughout their lives. There are also monogamous animals. These mating pairs stay together throughout their lives.

This list of animals that mate for life contains birds, mammals, and reptiles.

#10 Macaroni Penguin

Animal That Mates for Life: Macaroni Penguin
Both the male and female macaroni penguin play important nurturing roles in raising the chick.

Tetyana Dotsenko/Shutterstock.com

These penguins reach sexual maturity at about 5 years old. A male macaroni penguin attracts a female by bowing and bobbing its head. Once they pair up, they’re lifelong mates. Some of these penguins live as long as 15 years. After the female lays the eggs, the mother and father take turns sitting on them and hunting for food. Once the egg hatches, the male cares for the hatchling the first month while the female takes on foraging duties.

Macaroni penguins are very social birds and dwell in colonies that can number up to 2.5 million individuals. They are active day and night, spending day hours foraging in the water at depths of 20-80 meters. At night, they only dive up to 20 meters. They feed on krill, but overfishing has threatened the numbers of krill, which in turn has had a negative effect on these birds.

The conservation status of the macaroni penguin is Vulnerable with a decreasing population.

Learn more about the lifelong devotion of the macaroni penguin here.

#9 Whooping Crane

Animal That Mates for Life: Whooping Crane
Whooping cranes choose a lifelong mate at three years old.

William Cushman/Shutterstock.com

At 3 years old, a whooping crane chooses a lifelong mate. These birds hop, dance, and flap their wings as part of the mating ritual.

The male and female whooping crane work together to build a nest in the mud using bulrushes. Normally, the female lays just one egg and the pair shares the duty of keeping it warm. After the egg hatches, the parents continue to care for the chick for 9 months. These birds can live as long as 30 years! However, if one in a couple dies, the survivor is known to go in search of a new mate.

The conservation status of this bird is Endangered with a decreasing population.

Discover more facts on the whooping crane aka the tallest bird in North America.

#8 Beavers

Animal That Mates for Life: Beavers
The female beaver cares for the kits while the male finds food and defends the nest.

Telly/Shutterstock.com

Beavers reach sexual maturity at about 2 years old. A female releases a scent to let the male beavers around her know she’s ready to mate. After pairing up, beavers stay together for life.

After the beaver kits are born, the female cares for them while the male finds food and defends the nest. The mother and father continue to care for the kits until they reach 2 years old. Beavers can live up to 10 years in the wild.

The conservation status of the beaver is Least Concern with a stable population.

Discover more on beavers here including how they make their dams.

#7 Gray Wolf

Animal That Mates for Life: Gray Wolf
The female gray wolf has a litter of up to nine cubs once per year.

Lillian Tveit/Shutterstock.com

Gray wolves are animals that mate for life and live in Alaska as well as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Idaho. These monogamous canines reach sexual maturity at about 3 years old. A female gives off a scent when ready to mate.

The female gray wolf has a litter of 5 to 9 cubs just once per year. She takes care of the cubs in the den while the male goes out to hunt for prey to feed his family. The male stands guard over his young to protect them.

The conservation status of the gray wolf is Least Concern with a stable population.

Learn more about wolves and their pack activities here!

#6 Barn Owl

Animal That Mates for Life: Barn Owl
The Barn owl, who mates for life, is a cavity nester, who readily uses to human-made structures to nest.

Joanne Harris and Daniel Bubnich/Shutterstock.com

This monogamous bird is best known for its heart-shaped face. These owls reach sexual maturity at 1 year old.

A male barn owl has a special call when searching for a mate. Once a female is interested, the male tries to feed her. If she accepts food, they become a pair! A barn owl pair preen one another sitting side by side.

The female creates a nest in a tree for her eggs. Once her eggs hatch, she stays in the nest to care for them. Meanwhile, the male hunts for prey to bring back to the nest. After the babies, or owlets, are 3 weeks old they can be left alone allowing the pair to hunt for food. They care for the owlets until they’re 13 weeks old.

Their conservation status of the barn owl is Least Concern with a stable population.

Look at some other facts about the barn owl right here.

#5 Marmoset

Animal That Mates for Life: Marmoset
Female marmosets give birth to twins twice per year, and the male marmoset is the main caregiver.

konmesa/Shutterstock.com

These tree-dwelling monkeys live in the rainforests of South America. They reach sexual maturity at 18 months old and live for around 12-16 years.

Once they compete for their mates, marmosets hang onto just that one lifelong mate. Female marmosets give birth to twins twice per year. The male marmoset is the main caregiver in the family. Marmoset pairs routinely share food and groom each other’s hair.

The pairs live within larger family groups called ‘troops’ containing about 15 monkeys. Only the ‘top’ male and female pair end up having babies.

The marmoset’s conservation status is Least Concern with a decreasing population.

Discover more about the marmoset including how these monkeys communicate.

#4 Bald Eagle

Animal That Mates for Life: Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782, and is another animal that mates for life.

Krumpelman Photography/Shutterstock.com

Bald eagles live in the United States and Canada. These birds are sexually mature at 5 years old. As a courtship ritual, for these animals that mate for life a male and female grasp talons and spin together in the air.

Generally, a female lays 2 eggs in a clutch. Both the female and male take turns sitting on the eggs. The male goes out to hunt for food for the female and the chicks. The chicks fledge at around 11 weeks old and will soon be independent. Eagles can live from 20 to 30 years in the wild.

The eagle’s conservation status is Least Concern with an increasing population.

Check out more interesting facts about the bald eagle here.

#3 Prairie Vole

Animal That Mates for Life: Prairie Vole
Prairie voles love to touch, as it allows communication between mates .

theNerdPatrol / flickr – License

These monogamous rodents live in grassy fields in the central part of the United States as well as in southern Canada. The prairie vole reaches sexual maturity at about 40 days old. Male prairie voles aggressively compete with other males for the attention of a female.

A female prairie vole has 2 to 4 litters per year. Each litter can contain up to 7 pups. The male and female share the responsibility of building a nest as well as feeding for their pups. The pups are able to live independently at just 2 weeks old. These rodent pairs groom one another and huddle together in their burrow.

The conservation status of the prairie vole is Least Concern with a stable population.

Learn more about the busy lives of voles right here.

#2 Mute Swan

Animal That Mates for Life: Mute Swan
Mute Swan, mating for life, are the elegant birds of Russian ballets and European fairy tales. 

Sergei25/Shutterstock.com

When considering what animals mate for life, mute swans immediately come to mind. They are found in the Great Lakes as well as ponds and lakes in the Pacific Northwest. These birds can live up to 10 years.

Male and female mute swans pair up at around 3 years old. Males and females work together to build a nest of grass and cattails. They take turns sitting on their eggs and feeding the chicks aka cygnets.

The conservation status of swans is Least Concern with an increasing population.

Learn more about the mute swan including why these birds mate for life.

#1 Animals That Mate for Life: Shingleback Lizard

Animals That Mate for Life: Shingleback Lizard
Shingleback lizards mate for life, which is very unusual among lizards.

Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

These lizards live in Australia. Males compete for females by fighting other males and establishing dominance. Once a female and male pair up, they stay together.

Shingleback lizards give live birth to their young and share the feeding duties. The young are able to live independently just days after birth. Scientists have observed these monogamous reptiles walking side by side and rubbing their heads together.

The conservation status of the shingleback lizard is Least Concern with a stable population.

Learn more about the unique characteristics of reptiles like the shingleback lizard right here.

World’s Top 10 Animals that Mate for Life

RankAnimal
#1Shingleback Lizard
#2Mute Swan
#3Prairie Vole
#4Bald Eagle
#5Marmoset
#6Barn Owl
#7Grey Wolf
#8Beaver
#9Whooping Crane
#10Macaroni Penguin

Up Next…

Surprisingly, though these monogamous animals don’t mate like rabbits, most of them aren’t in any trouble as a species. Check out these posts to learn more.

Animals That Mate for Life: Mute Swan
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About the Author

Abby Parks has authored a fiction novel, theatrical plays, short stories, poems, and song lyrics. She's recorded two albums of her original songs, and is a multi-instrumentalist. She has managed a website for folk music and written articles on singer-songwriters, folk bands, and other things folk-music oriented. She's also a radio DJ for a folk music show. As well as having been a pet-parent to rabbits, birds, dogs, and cats, Abby loves seeking sightings of animals in the wild, and has witnessed some more exotic ones such as: Puffins in the Farne Islands, Southern Pudu on the island of Chiloe (Chile), Penguins in the wild, and countless wild animals in the Rocky Mountains (Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Moose, Elk, Marmots, Beavers).

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