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Avian Parental Care

yellow warbler nesting pair 078Parental care varies according to species, but usually only one sex is responsible for the care of offspring. The exception to this rule is birds, where at least 81% of species exhibit bi-parental care. It may not be shared equally, but both contribute in some way. Fairly typical are Yellow Warblers (pictured). The female Yellow Warbler builds the nest, lays the eggs, incubates the eggs, and broods the young all by herself. The male occasionally feeds his mate while she’s on the nest and when the eggs hatch, shares the delivery of food to the nestlings and the cleaning of the nest. Recent research has shown that the amount of parental care provided by males is directly related to the genetic fidelity of the female. If she’s true blue, then she may well receive a lot more help from her mate.

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6 responses


    Are researchers so sure it works that way? Maybe if he were more helpful she wouldn’t be looking elsewhere for a mate, rather than him only being helpful as a response to her faithfulness.

    June 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

    • I like your interpretation much better!

      June 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm

  2. I’m not sure what you mean by fidelity? Do you mean faithfulness to one male over the course of a single breeding season, or over multiple seasons?

    June 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    • Yes, faithfulness to one mate per brood, Wendy.

      June 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm

  3. Very interesting! You get what you give!

    June 19, 2014 at 8:58 pm

  4. dellwvt

    Did you hear the Vermont Edition interview (VPR) on Wednesday about what they’ve observed in Bicknell’s thrush mating and parenting? Apparently females accept several mates, and the males quite actively service the broods in several nests, not knowing for sure whether or not any of the young are their own…

    June 20, 2014 at 4:01 am

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