Five Birds That Deserve A Father's Day Card

13th June 2018


Protective, goofy, and just plain cool. These adjectives can describe many dads—both human and nonhuman. Some dads may have a reputation as leaving the parenting details to Mom, but among wildlife, several proud papas are as nurturing and responsible a parent as their mates—and in some cases, even more so. Whether their offspring need to hitch a ride under a wing when danger is near (sometimes for weeks at a time), crave an extra-regurgitated snack, or simply need a little guidance in the right direction, these feathered fathers are there at beck and call.

First up is the head honcho of the animal dadpack, the Emperor Penguin. This popular dad is famously known for keeping his mate’s eggs nice and toasty for months. He’s so dedicated that he doesn’t even get up to eat, and loses almost half his body weight. In fact, hundreds of dads doing their parental duty (i.e. keeping eggs sheltered under their skin, where it’s a cozy 100 degrees Fahrenheit) come together in an annual Antarctic waddle, attempting to keep one another warm. When the kiddos finally hatch, Dad, despite not having eaten in over a month, provides that first meal from his own throat. After Dad cares for the young for 60 days, Mom returns from the sea with a belly full of fish for the newborn, and penguin Dad takes a well-deserved vacation, fishing for himself, finally, in the Antarctic Ocean.

If Father’s Day was a popularity contest, the Jacana father might rank number one. This amazing dad of the animal kingdom does everything from building his family’s nest on lilypads to raising the kids in and out of the shallow waters of Asia, Africa, and America. While their mother is out having late nights somewhere in the lakes of Southern Texas, Dad takes on a new role. In fact, by taking care of housework (nest work?) and even caring for a few chicks that aren’t his own, this father has for ages been breaking down gender stereotypes. Even before an eggshell shows its first crack, Jacana dads labor to keep their young safe from potential danger lurking near their floating homes. After four weeks, his little prodigies are ready to be on their own—at which point Dad makes another nest and awaits another potential mate (because female Jacanas often leave before her eggs hatch, males essentially do all the parenting). Without any help building nests, keeping eggs warm, or keeping chicks safe, these lily-trotting dads definitely deserve some Father’s Day love.

Compared to mate-for-life penguins, Rheas occupy the opposite end of the monogamy spectrum. But even as they fling with between two and 12 females at a time, single rhea dads take care of all their children, feeding and protecting their young until they’re old enough to survive on their own. Sure, they may be a tad overprotective and overbearing, but rhea fathers keep up to 50 eggs and eventual newborns safe from harm’s way, aggressively shooing away possible predators and other forms of danger lurking in the woodlands of Brazil and Argentina. These “players” are akin to the types of dads who embarrass you by threatening your boyfriend—but who, in keeping the bad guys away, win your silent appreciation, and eternal gratitude.

Although single parenting deserves a round of applause, Flamingos serve as co-parenting paragons. Flamingo fathers help out in any way they can, taking turns with the mother to feed and care for newborns until they are about a week old. After that, Mom and Pop let their young loose into the real world. Balancing fatherhood and an egalitarian relationship is always a challenge—imagine doing it all while standing on one leg! These modern fathers have certainly earned their spot in our unofficial dads’ hall of fame.

Now, for the ultimate provider. The breadwinning Great Horned Owl is, so to speak, a traditional man’s man. Although most comfortable in North and South American suburbia, this father is willing to take his family any and everywhere there is a livable tree hole or abandoned bird’s nest to be found. While Mom is home making sure unhatched eggs don’t freeze, Dad is off hunting to feed the whole family. Unlike most other common birds, the female owl is almost 25 percent bigger than her male counterpart, so each meal needs to be a hearty one. And once the youngsters hatch, Dad typically has two to three more mouths to feed. Bringing home the bacon (i.e. the squirrels and rabbits) is no easy solo job, but this dedicated Dad gets it done. After a few weeks, when the newborns can be left alone for a while, Mother Owl starts to pitch in and help balance the burden. This bird dad is an undeniable reminder to not take the dads of the world—human or wild—for granted.

Article source: SierraClub

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