Why Bird Fathers Are Superior
Most mammal fathers are deadbeats with a “love ’em and leave ’em” approach, sticking around only to mate. Then there are birds.
- •In some 90% of bird species, the males stay around to help.They share the duties of nest-building, incubate eggs, feed brooding females and the chicks, even train their young for independent life.
- •Many birds share incubation duties.
- •Male and female double-crested cormorants swap that role about once an hour, so that the stay-at-home parent gets a chance to forage for itself.Photo: ROY GLEN/ARDEA.COM/EVERETT COLLECTION)
- •Woodpeckers relieve one another during the day, but the male alone incubates at night.(Photo: USHER, D/DPA/ZUMA PRESS)
- •Some male birds go to extraordinary lengths not just to find food for their young but to participate in the actual feeding.
- •The anhinga, or snakebird, puts his whole mouth and neck into it, creating a kind of feeding tube to efficiently deliver partially digested fish down the throats of his young.(Photo: HUETTER, C/DPA/ZUMA PRESS)
- •The Namaqua sandgrouse acts as a living flask for his brood.A male bird flies up to 20 miles to find a watering hole in which to soak his belly feathers, absorbing a few tablespoons of water—then flies back to his chicks to let them drink from his feathers. (Photo: IMAGE SOURCE/ZUMA PRESS)
- •Some modern feathered fathers even fall into the category of heroic single dads.
- •The male cassowary of New Guinea and Australia sits alone on the nest for some 50 days, not eating and barely drinking until his chicks hatch.(Photo: JEAN-PAUL FERRERO/ARDEA.COM/EVERETT COLLECTION)
- •Or consider the wattled jacana of South America, a wading bird that practically walks on water.It builds a nest from floating plants and keeps the eggs warm not by sitting on them but by tucking them under each wing. If the nest starts to sink or the chicks are threatened, the bird may ferry them under his wings to a new site.