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Giving is Receiving

The Spirit of Giving in the Animal Kingdom

Monday, December 9, 2019, written by Leanna Read

The act of giving gifts, whether to show affection or in celebration, is a cross-culture, global behavior that reaches into the animal kingdom.

Here are a few examples of animals exhibiting gift-giving behaviors to attract a mate, to show affection, and even to create new relationships with individuals outside their group.


Photographed by Mika Miller

Penguins may be the most famous gift-givers in the animal kingdom. Male penguins will search for a beautiful pebble to present to his potential mate. If she accepts his ‘proposal,’ that pebble becomes the first of many used to build their nest. Penguins typically mate for life, so the male will repeat this behavior each mating season.

Aracari and Toucans

Many Aracari and Toucan species will offer food as a courtship gift. The item is sometimes passed back and forth a few times before the female finally accepts. Some males will even present an entire tree that he guards from other intruders.


Photographed by Mika Miller

Some jays display gift-giving behavior without the expectation of receiving something in return. Individuals have been observed giving specific foods to their mates simply because the females will enjoy the presents.


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Bonobos are one of the most social animals and have developed a unique habit of giving food to bonobos from other groups. The behavior appears to be purely motivated by the desire to expand their circle.

Humpback Dolphins

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The male dolphin will fetch a sea-sponge from the ocean floor and present it to a female after tossing it around or even wearing it as a hat. Researchers can only guess why this behavior is so common.


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Crows are one of the few animals that will give gifts to humans, and they go a step further by giving gifts that are not food. Some crows develop relationships with humans who offer them food by returning with gifts like shiny objects, buttons, or other trinkets.

This holiday season can be a time to show your appreciation for your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues by giving them a meaningful gift from the heart.

If there are people in your life that are difficult to shop for, it is important to remember—just like with our friends in the animal kingdom—that the intent and gesture of your gift is what counts. Maybe the right gift is not an item, but an experience. A special outing can create lasting memories and build stronger bonds.

For gift ideas to give your animal-loving friends, check out the Gift Guide from Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. If you are an employer in need of gifts for your team or coworkers, you can treat your employees with the Aquarium experience by hosting an event or purchasing corporate tickets.

Interested in booking an event at the Aquarium?

Click below to schedule a meeting with our event staff and to see the available spaces.

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