Whose thoughts don't turn to love in springtime? The sunny weather is enough to warm the hardest of hearts. The blooming flowers and budding trees don't hurt either. And then there are the outdoor cafes, the rubber boots and the tractors.
Rubber boots and tractors?
In Germany -- at least among the feathered populace -- it would seem that nascent love affairs with inanimate objects are all the rage this year. Schwani, a swan in the village of Velen in western Germany, has decided that a blue tractor is the love of his life. And in Sea Life Constance, in Germany's far south, a penguin named Bonaparte has fallen hard for a rubber boot.
In the case of Schwani, at least, it would appear to be a long-term thing. Hermann-Josef Hericks, who runs the farm where the swan lives, told the tabloid Bild that Schwani has been beak-over-heels for a blue, 39 horsepower tractor for several years. "Ever since we bought the tractor three years ago, Schwani has been following it everywhere it goes," Hericks told the paper.
'Tractor as a Sexual Partner'
In its always-sincere effort to get to the bottom of the story, Bild phoned up animal behaviorist Daniela Fiutak to ask why Schwani would do such a thing. "The swan presumably had contact with machines during puberty," she said. "He sees the tractor as a sexual partner."
Bonaparte's infatuation, on the other hand, is of more recent origin. Recently, the gentoo penguin has taken to following his trainer around the enclosure -- in the vain hope of getting a little time alone with one of the trainer's rubber boots.
The boots, black with a white sole, look like a female penguin lying on the ground, according to one possible explanation for Bonaparte's behavior. "I have never seen such a thing before," Bonaparte's keeper, Dennis Kübler, told a local paper.
That may be true. But last year also saw Sea Life having breeding troubles in their penguin enclosure. A pair of birds that seemed deeply in love -- and even built themselves a nest together -- ultimately proved unable to have babies. They were, as it turned out, both males.
Schwani's confusion is likewise not as unique as one might think. Five years ago, a black swan named Petra made headlines in Germany for her love affair with a plastic pedal boat. To Petra's credit, though, the boat was shaped like a swan.