Valentine’s Day? Not For Birds Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2011 by eNature Female hooded warbler on nest © USFWS Unlike humans, who seize the opportunity at Valentine’s Day to proclaim their love for their mate and reinforce the bonds of love over a lifetime, most birds are of a different feather. The use of DNA by scientists has provided new food for thought to people who had assumed that most birds were faithful to their mates, if not for a lifetime, at least for a single breeding season. Alas, it’s just not true. There is more hankypanky going on in the back fields and woodlands of the country among birds than anyone could imagine. DNA studies of songbirds have shown that among any four baby birds in a single nest, it is typical that only an average of two are the creation of the parent birds that are raising them. The other two nestling have either a different father or mother, or both. In other words, it is a common practice among songbirds to copulate with birds other than their mates, thus producing broods of nestlings with mixed parentage. Divorce is also common among birds, particularly in birds of prey. If a mated pair of hawks, for example, is not successful in producing a brood of youngsters, an avian divorce often arises and one or the other will seek another mate. Yet, there are some birds that are faithful to their mates. Geese, swans and some seabirds are uncommonly faithful, often for life. Indeed, true love does seem to exist in the bird world, though it is hard to find.