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Father’s Day Is For The Birds!

By Wild Birds Unlimited
Photographs courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited

Not all bird fathers are alike, that is for sure! Some are doting and devoted parents, while others are totally missing in action. So to help tell their stories, here is a quick look at a few of our favorite fathers in the world of birds.

It’s debatable, but the Father-of-the-Year Award could go to the woodpecker dads that visit your feeders.

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During the daytime, dad woodpeckers often share equally in the nesting duties with their mates, but come nighttime, the fathers often solely incubate the eggs and brood the nestlings. They also bring food to the nestlings as often, or even more so, than the mothers.

When the young brood fledges from the nest, dads spend the next few weeks leading them to great food sources, including his own favorite backyard bird feeders.

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The Worst Father-of–the-Year has to go to hummingbirds! Male hummingbirds are the proverbial bachelor of the bird world. They play absolutely no role in helping their mate during nesting or in raising their young. None…well, none except for the courtship and conception part. And if that wasn’t enough, we have all witnessed what a hard time they give mom and youngster as they try to use the hummingbird feeders in the backyard.

Mourning dove dads should probably win the prize for being the hardest working fathers. They can have up to six clutches per year, usually with two eggs per clutch. This is the most of any North American bird.

Dad helps with all the nesting duties, including feeding the young squabs on “crop milk,” a yogurt-like secretion produced by the walls of their crop. It takes both parents to provide enough of this food for the growing nestlings to survive.

Let’s wrap up with pygmy and brown-headed nuthatches as they are some of the few bird species to provide future dads with on-the-job training. While nesting, these nuthatches can have between one to three male helpers, usually their own offspring.

These helpers learn how to provide food for the mother as she incubates the eggs, and how to feed the youngsters, both while in the nest and for many days after they have fledged.

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Who knew, right? Father’s Day really can be for the birds, too!

To hear more about the fascinating world of bird fathers, be sure to check out the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Centered Podcast episode, “A Note About Bird Song.” Hosts John and Brian will share some amazing facts about the multitude of sounds male birds use as songs to attract and bond with their nesting partners.

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