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Valentine's Day - Not for Birds!

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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.
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