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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Birdnote: Motherly Instincts

Air Date: Week of

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A female Peregrine Falcon with her young. (Photo: Ruth Taylor)

No two species of bird approach parenthood in quite the same way. As Mary McCann explains, the division of responsibilities between mother and father is often unequal.


PALMER: If you’re out in your garden or the woods or by the water this time of year, it’s hard to miss the many birds, busy nesting and raising babies. But not all of them have strong maternal instincts as Mary McCann points out in today’s BirdNote.


Mother Birds

MCCANN: Motherhood. In the avian world, it’s a mixed bag.
Peregrine Falcon mothers share duties fairly equally with Peregrine dads. [Cakking of a Peregrine] Both incubate the eggs, although Mom usually spends more time at the task. For the first three weeks after the eggs hatch, she alone broods the young, and the male hunts to feed the entire family. When the young fledge, both parents feed them, and at the same time, teach the young birds to hunt for themselves. [Cakking of a Peregrine]

At the other end of the spectrum is the female hummingbird. [Wing-hum of a Rufous Hummingbird] She usually carries the entire burden of nesting, incubating, and tending the young, a true single mom. The male stays around, but only to protect his territory. He’s mostly a pest. [More wing-hum]

A diligent hummingbird mother. (Photo: Gregg Thompson)

And then, there’s the female Western Sandpiper. [Chattering sound of Western Sandpiper flock] She finishes a nest the male has started, and they share incubation duties. But Mother Sandpiper usually leaves the family just a few days after the eggs have hatched. The male tends the young until they’re able to fly. It makes sense. The female needs to replenish herself. The eggs she laid almost equaled her body weight. [More chattering]
I’m Mary McCann.
Written by Ellen Blackstone
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Peregrine Falcon recorded by G. Vyn. Hummingbird wing hum recorded by A.A. Allen.
Western Sandpiper calls recorded by Martyn Stewart, naturesound.org
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2005-2017 Tune In to Nature.org May 2017 Narrator: Mary McCann


PALMER: And for photos, flutter on over to our website, LOE.org.



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