This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


Parrots of all kinds engage in a public display of affection called “allopreening,” and it’s probably this activity that gave lovebirds their name. Lovebirds may have the reputation for amor, but crows show affection, too.

You can see it a lot at this time of year. Male and female sit side by side on a wire or branch, often near their nest tree. One stretches out its neck, inviting the other to groom its feathers. The groomer, or preener, twirls individual feathers in its beak, often starting at the back of the head and working around to the front. The bird being groomed turns its head upward so the preener can reach the feathers under its chin. Its eyes close slightly, making it seem as if the bird is in a daze. The preener pauses; the preenee remains absolutely still, mesmerized. It’s even mesmerizing to watch.

Allopreening strengthens the pair bond between the birds. And it keeps their feathers in good shape, too.

Check out our website and you’ll find a limerick—believe it or not—about allopreening. There’s a video, too. One crow preening another. See if you aren’t mesmerized. Find them at I’m Mary McCann.



Written by Ellen Blackstone 

Producer: John Kessler 

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Narrator: Mary McCann

Bird calls provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of Gray-headed Lovebirds [97517] recorded by L. Wilme. Vocalizations of crow pair [82044] by E. Brown.

© 2014 Tune In to     February 2014/2019 

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