Valentine's Day Bird Term: Billing

Love Is in the Air: Understanding Billing in Birds for Valentine's Day

Birdorable Atlantic Puffins on a cliff in Iceland

In ornithology, the term 'billing' refers to a courtship behavior displayed by certain bird species where two individuals touch, tap, or clasp each other's beaks. It is also known as beak-tapping or bill-tapping. It's called nebbing in British English.

This behavior is often seen in birds that form strong pair bonds and in some ways can be likened to kissing in humans. As today is Valentine's Day (it's always on February 14th), let's look at this interesting bonding behavior, and learn why birds engage in this activity.

Strengthening Pair Bonds
Billing is a sign of affection and helps to strengthen the bond between a mating pair. It is commonly observed in species that mate for life or have long-term partnerships Common Ravens hold each other's bills and feet as part of pair bonding. Atlantic Puffins tap bills quickly as part of their pair bonding behavior, as shown in the video below.

Mutual Grooming
In some cases, billing is part of mutual grooming (allopreening), where birds clean each other's feathers. Rock Pigeons engage in allopreening which includes mutual beak-touching.

Courtship Ritual
Billing is an essential part of the courtship ritual in many species. It is a display of trust and partnership, which can be critical in the mate-selection process. Courting Cedar Waxwings rub their beaks together and pass food to one another. Many albatross species engage in beak-tapping as part of their courtship, like the Waved Albatrosses in the below video.

Territorial and Social Signaling
In some instances, billing can also be a way of demonstrating a pair's territorial bond to other birds, signaling that they are a united and established couple.

Billing is a fascinating aspect of avian behavior that highlights the complex social interactions and emotional connections between birds.

Cute Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from Birdorable

Comments

Woodpiecer on February 16, 2024 at 6:48 AM wrote:
I've watched the Waved Albatross Video since 2020 or 2021.

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