Birds Mom Awards: The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Weird

Birds Mom Awards: The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Weird

Editor
Published: 05/11/2012

Mother birds employ wildly different reproductive strategies, nearly all of them successful. From a human point of view, however, some moms seem “better” than others. Here are the National Audubon Society's first-ever “Mother Hen Awards” for distinctive parenting styles, just in time for Mother's Day.

1) Best Bird Mom: Osprey

Osprey mothers take parenting seriously. They do most of the incubation and care for the hatchlings for weeks after they appear. Ospreys are famous for aggressive defense of their nests. Researchers venturing too close to a nest report harrowing near misses from osprey talons. Mom and the chicks dine mostly on fresh fish, caught daily and delivered by dad.
Clutch size: 2-4
For more information:
All About Birds
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

2) Coolest Bird Mom: Least Tern

A least tern parent (males and females look the same) feeding a fish to a small chick near St Augustine, Florida. Photograph: Craig ONeal/CC-by-2.0  

Least Terns are beach breeders, generally nesting in a scrape of sand or pebbles just above the high tide line. On warm days Tern moms will stand over eggs and hatchlings to shade them from the sun. On hot days, mother terns will soak her belly feathers in the ocean and return to give her brood a cool sponge bath.
Clutch size: 1-3
For more information:
All About Birds
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

3) Martha Stewart Award: Prothonotary Warbler

Female prothonotary warbler. Rondeau Provincial Park, 2005; de: Zitronenwaldsänger. Photograph: Mdf/CC-by-3.0

Although warbler dads select the nest site—typically a low cavity in trees typical of bottomland or swamp forests—mother warblers assume the heavy-duty homemaking, and they take their responsibility seriously. Warbler moms will spend as many as eight days constructing and outfitting the nest. They build layer upon layer of soft material using a variety of mosses, leaves, and even fishing line when they can find it.
Clutch size: 3-7 eggs
For more information:
All About Birds
Article: "The Enchanted Forest"

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