Do father birds feed their babies

Meet the Best Bird Dads and Learn How They Help Out Around The Nest

Celebrate the hardest-working feathered fathers out there! These great bird dads don't fly away when the chicks hatch.

Courtesy Steven OsborneMom and dad robin tend to their nest.

It’s Father’s Day, but the bird dads in our backyard aren’t kicking back and enjoying the warm summer day. A male song sparrow, flecked with brown and white, lands on a tree branch to sing between trips to a hidden nest where his hungry offspring wait for the next mouthful. Meanwhile, a flash of red on the opposite side of the hedge means a male northern cardinal is delivering dinner to his own eager brood.

Dads of some species of the bird world provide more than just meals, though. They help build nests, incubate eggs and stick around even after the moms have left. (To give credit where credit is due, there’s no denying that female birds often wind up with more than their fair shade of parenting duties. For example, male hummingbirds may be flashy, but they’re not very helpful. They don’t even stick around to watch the females raise their young.)

As a salute to the feathers with feathers that do help out around the nest, let’s turn the spotlight on these hardworking parents.

Lending a Wing

Courtesy Benjamin CashWren parents feed a chick in a nest box.

A number of backyard bird dads, including cardinals and Baltimore orioles, spring into action once their babies are hatched, flying back and forth with food. Even after the youngsters have left the nest, bird dads feed them for several days to make sure they have the best chance of survival. And if the female starts working on a second nest before the previous brood is completely independent, the male may become super dad and take on caring for the fledglings entirely on his own.

Many males are busy parents even before the eggs hatch. For example, a male American robin brings his female partner bits of material as she constructs the nest. At dawn, he constantly sings from a high perch. It may be a little annoying for his human neighbors, but he’s doing the important job of protecting his territory. Without his vigilant efforts, other robins might invade and eat all the juicy bugs and worms, making it harder for the robin parents-to-be to find enough food for their future nestlings.

Equal Partner Parenting

Courtesy Jimmie AndersonThe father Osprey brings home a live fish for the chicks.

For some birds, like downy woodpeckers, parenting is a true partnership. Male and female downies work together to carve a nest hole in a dead tree trunk or limb, taking turns chiseling away to create a safe, secure cavity. They both incubated the eggs, too. Mom and Dad take turns during the day, but at night it’s usually Dad who takes over. And once the babies have hatched, both parents help feed them. Sometimes the male downy woodpecker will end up feeding the young more than the female does.

Birds of prey, like hawks and owls, have a similarly balanced parenting style, although males and females take on different roles. Both red-shouldered hawk parents build the nest, for example, but only the female does the incubating and watches over the young once the eggs hatch. The male isn’t slacking off, though. It’s hist job to keep the food supply coming, first for the female as she sits on the egg, and then for the whole ravenous family.

Role Reversal

Courtesy Nancy JahnelPileated woodpecker babies stick their heads out begging for food from Dad.

Some female birds don’t settle for sitting on nests all day. Phalaropes (three species of small sandpipers) are a prime example of this parenting flip-flop. The females are more colorful than males and take the lead in courtship, and one female may have more than one mate. But whether she has one mate or several, she lays a clutch of four eggs for each of them, and leaves new dads to incubate eggs and raise young.

Spotted sandpipers, common in ponds and streams in most of North America, have a similar parenting technique, but for a long time scientists didn’t realize it because the males and females look nearly identical. These days, we know that spotted sandpiper dads do most of the incubating and tending to the young. The moms are too busy laying clutches of eggs with other dads to help out!

Whether they’re endlessly hunting down food or shouldering all of the raising and rearing themselves, bird dads are pretty amazing. From strong nests to healthy fledglings, bird dads make it all possible.

Bird Dad Awards

Birds that go beyond the call of daddy.

Best Builder: The male house wren is serious about nest-building, because it’s what helps him attract a mate. He starts constructing a few nests at once, and his female partner chooses the most promising one and finishes it.

Best Incubator: Northern flicker fathers do the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping the eggs warm. Their incubating duties leave them sitting on eggs all night long and half the day as well.

Best Provider: While a snowy owl mom is busy with the nestlings, the dad brings food to keep everybody fed. If it’s been a particularly good year, he may leave a large stockpile of dead lemmings and other rodents around the nest.

Best All-Around Parent: Not only do male sandhill cranes help with nest-building, incubation, and feeding their young, but families stick together through fall migration, winter and the beginning of spring migration. Young cranes learn and benefit from both parents.

Popular Videos

Mister Mom: Male Birds Who Parent

The Sandhill Crane participates in all aspects of parenting, caring for his young chicks with the female for a year [Photo: Audubon Society]

In most animal species, the care of offspring falls to the female. While rare in most other animals, male parenting and incubating is most common in birds. These Mister Moms of the sky are also the most likely to parent offspring not their own.[1] As Father’s Day approaches, let’s peek inside the nursery and see which bird dads rule the nest.

It turns out that arrangements for bird parenting are not a whole lot different than that of humans. There’s the traditional approach where the female does virtually all parenting and feeding, leaving the male to hunt for food and protect the nest. For the most part, birds do what most modern families do – they share parenting duties as equally as possible when it comes to brooding and feeding.

Modern Families and Super Dads

The super dad of the avian world goes to the Sandhill Crane who shares nest-building, incubation, feeding and co-raising their young with the mother for a year.

Kingfishers – loved by the bird watching community – have a modern approach to parenting. Both male and female build their waterside burrow nests and share incubation and feeding duties. Their ravenous offspring can consume 20-40 small fish per day.

Male Robins don’t build the nest, but they provide nourishment for the female as she does.


The Robin’s parental instincts are so highly developed that they are known to feed chicks or fledglings of other species. The male Robin does not do any of the brooding, but does share feeding duties with the female once their offspring are fledgling. [Photo: Birdwatching Daily]

Blue Jays are not the most beloved birds for backyard birdwatchers, but usually mate for life. Blue Jay males are known to raid other nests of their eggs, but have:

  • Highly developed and complex social systems
  • Form tight family bonds


Kingfishers – darlings of the bird watching community – have a modern approach to parenting. Both male and female build their waterside burrow nests and share incubation duties.


Night shift, day shift bird style

  • Starlings share the task of brooding during the day, with the male taking the traditional 9 to 5 shift, and the female brooding at night.
  • Double-crested Cormorants relieve each other of nesting duties about every hour.
  • Sandpipers, pigeons and doves take the Starling approach with males brooding during working hours and females through the night.
  • Woodpeckers alternate nesting duties during the day, with the male taking the night shift and warming the eggs at night.
  • Northern Flicker fathers sit on incubating eggs all night and half the day.
  • Peregrine Falcons share the scrape nesting duties during the day. After hatching, the male takes on hunting duties while the female trains the baby Falcons to hunt.
  • In an extreme example of shared incubation, the African Common Waxbill sits together on their clutch the entire time of incubation.

Slacker dad

The male hummingbird takes no part whatsoever in nest-building, the incubation of their tiny eggs – each weighing only a few grams – nor the feeding of his baby hummingbirds. He does, however, feed the female while she broods and keeps watch over the nest from afar.

Happy Father’s Day month to our Wingspan Optics bird watching community!

[1] Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1994

Back to Wingspan Optics Field Journal - Exclusively for Bird Watchers!

The best fathers in the animal world

To give birth to a child, hatch eggs, be an obstetrician - different dads are needed, different dads are important!

Each species is programmed to survive in its own environment. Caring for offspring in the animal world does not always fall on the shoulders of the mother - often it is the father who takes care of the offspring. Sometimes the male himself bears the unborn child. Sometimes he hatches eggs or takes birth.


For seahorses, the father is the mother. The female is needed only to throw the eggs into a special pocket on the body of the male. After that, the couple part ways. The horse fertilizes the eggs and bears offspring for 45 days. He gets fat, becomes slow and experiences all the delights of pregnancy, and even experiences contractions during childbirth - more and more exhausting towards the end, when there are fewer fry inside. When babies are born, an independent life immediately begins - parents do not participate in it.

Not to mention that these beautiful fish are now on the verge of extinction. The rapid decline in the population is caused by the constant hunting for them: an exotic form played a cruel joke with them, making them a desirable souvenir in the countries of Southeast Asia. They are cruelly treated: after capture, the spine of the skate is bent to give the body the shape of the letter S. In China, where animal protection legislation is very flexible, seahorses are immersed in a special solution, creating so-called “living key rings”. The second reason for trapping is the use of skates in traditional Chinese medicine. If it were not for the fertility of fathers, who release up to 1000 fry per pregnancy, we would only read about this species in books. In the season, cubs are born every four weeks.


An ostrich-like nanda living in South America can rightfully be called an alpha male. This bird strictly monitors its territory and flock; the male builds a nest, obtains food and protects his family from aggression from predators and competitors. At the same time, the male nandu is an absolute polygamist. In his harem, there are usually five to seven females (and sometimes up to 12). After a period of mating games, the latter almost simultaneously lay eggs in a common nest, and all of them are incubated by the male.

Interestingly, the nandu papa will not work for a couple of eggs - he always waits for about ten (usually 15 to 40) to come together. It stays in the nest all night and morning until the dew dries. From time to time he briefly leaves the post to get food. In case of danger, males protect the eggs by snorting and snapping their beaks and serpentinely rotating their swollen necks.

After six weeks, the first ostriches begin to appear. Since females lay eggs at the same time (the interval between the first and last egg is up to seven days), the chicks hatch almost one after another. After that, dad carefully walks the young.

When the nandu becomes old (average life expectancy is 12 years), the male leaves the pack and dies alone.


The smallest of the primates - marmosets - are excellent parents. Unlike most of their relatives, they lead a monogamous lifestyle (although there are exceptions). The male takes care of the partner for the entire period of fetal development. During childbirth, he is a direct participant in the process, helping the baby to be born, and this is actually not an easy task. If we recalculate the body weight of the cub and the female in marmosets in the same ratio in humans, it turns out that a 14-kilogram baby is born in a mother with a weight of 55 kg.

Most often, two cubs are born, and fathers take the most active part in their upbringing: they are always with the offspring, care for it, carry it on their backs and introduce it to the world, bringing it to the females for feeding. This is not at all like the structure of the society of other primates, where the main creatures in the life of the cubs are the females of the pack.

Bigfoot, or weed chicken

This bird lives in Australia and the Pacific Islands and is notable for its sophisticated method of raising chicks: the bigfoot does not incubate eggs, and this provides a responsible parent (male, you guessed it) very hectic life.

After the female lays her eggs in a specially prepared place: a small hole covered with fallen leaves, the future father takes care of the offspring. Plants rot and release heat, which is used to heat the masonry. The problem is that it is necessary to maintain a temperature of 33.3 ° C in the nest. As soon as the level is exceeded, big-legged dad rakes the pile and allows the masonry to cool. As soon as it gets colder, he collects new leaves and hides eggs in them. And so 11 months. The bigfoot nest begins to be prepared in April, and although only 2 months pass from laying an egg to the appearance of a chick, the bigfoot females carry eggs non-stop, from August to mid-February, so that eggs of varying degrees of incubation are constantly in the nest, which must be monitored.

The neck of the male, which is devoid of plumage, serves as a thermometer. To monitor the temperature, he dips his head inside the nest several times an hour. And this "sensor", as scientists have established, has an error of only 0.1 ° C!

The hatched chicks can run in a day, and in three days they can fly. And from the first day they lead a completely independent life - their parents no longer care about them.

Jackals and coyotes

The peculiarity of these species lies in their total monogamy: once created, a couple stays together forever. The male provides the female with a deep and carefully prepared burrow. The entire period of pregnancy, childbirth and raising offspring, he is next to the family, only occasionally going hunting. After giving birth, he begins to hunt several times more often and brings more prey, and to simplify the digestion of food by newborns, dad regurgitates some of the already digested food for them.

It should be added that monogamy is not common among animals: there are only 5% of all species (against 90% in birds). It is most commonly found in dogs.


An unusual bird common in the subtropics and tropics of both hemispheres. The species lives near water bodies, on the banks of which it creates its nests. The small jacana can often be seen running through the vegetation, which floats on the water - the bird is so small that the leaves hold it.

The female, which is larger than the male, lays eggs and immediately proceeds to search for a new partner. The female mates three or four times a season, and the males incubate eggs - sometimes from several individuals at once (to the father sitting in the nest, completely outside mothers can throw off their masonry). After the appearance of the chicks, the father continues to take care of the offspring: he feeds, protects, warms under the wing if they accidentally fall into the water. So he takes care of the children until they get stronger and can not move on their own.

One female makes up to eight clutches per year, and a male can raise two broods of chicks.

Frog and toad

There are 579 species of toads and about the same number of frogs in nature. But they all have one thing in common - future tadpoles are nurtured by the father. For this, nature has developed special features of the structure of the body.

Some species of toads and frogs (eg Darwin's rhinoderm, Cameroon hairy frog) tolerate eggs in their mouths, refusing to feed while the eggs are maturing. Other males attach eggs to the skin and carry them with them (midwife toad). There are species (pipa Carvalho and Surinamese pipa) that have a special pouch on the body in which caviar is placed - and the male bears it until the cubs are completely ready for life in the environment.

A feature of the development of the offspring of amphibians is the continuation of the formation of the organism after birth. A tadpole hatched from an egg does not have a mouth. It obtains nutrients by absorbing them through the parent's skin. After a couple of days, he begins to eat algae. But the tadpole spends one or two months with its parents. And only then the finally formed frog becomes completely independent.

Emperor penguin

Equality is the motto of penguin family life. Here, both parents take care of the cub, each at its own stage: the mother bears the egg, and the father hatches the chick. The male carefully puts the laid egg on its paws and carefully covers it with a special skin fold in the lower abdomen - a bag.

For about three months, the father does not part with the egg, moves very carefully and does not eat anything, living off the available fat reserves. In severe frost, males huddle together and cover each other from the wind. Females at this time restore strength in the ocean, but return by the time the offspring appears. If they are late, for several days the father can feed the chick with a special nutritious juice that his body produces.

The returned female takes over from her father. Five weeks after the birth, the penguins no longer fit into the bag and go to the "kindergarten", where they spend time huddled together. Parents are alternately on duty around the perimeter: warming the young from frost and protecting from predators. Feeding is targeted: a pair of parents find their chick in the crowd of young animals and feed only it.

The site may use materials from Facebook and Instagram Internet resources owned by Meta Platforms Inc., which is prohibited in the Russian Federation.



Why does spruce not shed its needles, while larch, on the contrary, loses its needles?

Why does spruce not shed its needles, while larch, on the contrary, loses its needles?

This is due to growing conditions. But it used to be different

Julia Skopich

November 30, 2022

Out-of-place artifacts, or That which cannot be

Inappropriate artifacts, or That which cannot be

These things and phenomena should not have existed, but they do exist. And they were not brought by aliens. We talk about the most interesting

Olga Fadeeva

November 29, 2022


Where to go ice skating in Moscow: winter 2022-2023

Where you can go skating in Moscow: winter 2022-2023

The best ice rinks of the capital in our selection

Alina Romashchenko

November 28, 2022

Huge lenticular funnel clouds filmed in Reunion

November 30, 2022

Traveling in crowded vehicles seems longer than it really is

November 30, 2022

TV channel "My Planet" was awarded the main prize of the contest "SMIrotvorets-2022"

November 30, 2022

Prices for New Year's holidays in Egypt for Russians are named

November 30, 2022

Between two worlds. Life in the airport terminal

10 largest rivers on Earth

The lowest temperature on Earth

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

10 Kremlins of Russia

Plants that changed history

What Our Gestures Really Mean

Not Just the Cuckoo: The 10 Worst Parents in the Animal World


The way some animals treat their children can be terrifying. The main thing to remember is that most often the reason for such behavior is one - the survival instinct, which manifests itself in a variety of forms.

Grave Digger Beetle

Grave Digger Beetle (Nicrophorus vespilloides)

Gillian Pullinger / Alamy via Legion Media

Gravediggers themselves are disgusting because they feed on carrion. Beetles find dead mice or birds, climb under their corpses and begin to bury them underground. Gravediggers lay eggs in the bodies of animals. The larvae hatched from them cannot feed on their own - the parents digest and give them food.

This is where the fight for survival begins. If you do not ask for food in time, you can be left without food. Weak larvae die quickly under such conditions. But zoologists at the University of Edinburgh have found that with the most demanding children, who pester bugs with demands for food, gravediggers act even more cruelly - they simply eat them.

Harp seal

Harp seal female and pup (Pagophilus groenlandicus)

Imagebroker / Alamy

Many have seen pictures of white harp seal pups with big black eyes. These cute puppies in nature have to go through a severe test: if a female seal has two cubs, one of them is abandoned by the mother.

The rest of the baby quickly gains weight thanks to full-fat milk, and the mother does not leave him and protects him. But this happy life lasts only 12 days. Then the mother throws the cub right on the ice. Young seals themselves learn to swim and hunt in the eighth week, and until then they remain in place. 20-30% of them die before they mature.

Dracula ant

Mystrium camillae ant

April Nobile / ©

Scientists have long been interested in the cruelty of these ants. Studies describe that they have the fastest bite in the animal kingdom - ants kill victims with poison, and then bring them to the colony to feed the larvae. Already in the body of the victim, the females lay eggs. But the most interesting thing is that adults cannot eat caterpillars and other insects - it is difficult for them to chew. Here, their own children come to the aid of the ants.

When the eggs develop into larvae, the parents pierce their shell with their stingers and suck out the hemolymph, the fluid that circulates in the vessels. Many larvae survive after this, but they do not like this feeding process - they try to crawl away from adults. This method is also called "non-destructive cannibalism".


Common Hamster (Cricetus cricetus)

Sonja Jordan / Alamy via Legion Media

Hamsters seem harmless and cute - many have kept hamsters at home as children. But the parents of these rodents are not the best. It often happens that the female, having barely carried and given birth to offspring, begins to eat her own children.

It is believed that mothers eat babies if they are too young and simply do not feel the maternal instinct to take care of the babies. According to another version, hamsters seek to get rid of weak cubs and choose such a radical method.

There is also an opinion that female hamsters are often too emaciated after giving birth. They require nutrients, but they do not have the strength to care for numerous children. Stress can also be the cause. When a mother is worried that she cannot feed her children, she prefers to get rid of them.


Egg-eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis)

Fiona Deaton / Alamy via Legion Media
9015 love sex1

entire nest. Hatched chicks are also included in the diet of these eagles, and this applies not only to other people's chicks.

Eagle eagle lays two eggs, from which chicks hatch in time. Soon they begin to clash and fight. The mother does not interfere with them and only watches. As a result, one chick kills the second and eats it together with its mother.

Chubby grebe

Hooded grebe (Podiceps gallardoi)

This bird lives in South America and is endangered, and its parental habits do not contribute to population growth. The fact is that grebes are often chosen from the offspring of a “pet” and do not raise more than one chick.

The female lays two eggs which she then incubates with the male in floating nests. As soon as a chick hatches from one egg, the parents leave the nest with him and swim away. The second chick hatches alone and is left unattended. It seems cruel, but it is believed that the toadstool deliberately lays more eggs than it needs in order to increase the chances of having offspring.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

Arterra Picture Library / Alamy via Legion Media

piercing screams and growls that the beast makes at night. Tasmanian devils are considered ferocious and aggressive, which is not surprising, because their life begins in the fight.

After three weeks of pregnancy, the female gives birth to several dozen cubs (scientists found out that their fathers may be different). Unfortunately, no more than four cubs survive in the end. The fact is that the female has only four nipples. Babies that don't get milk slowly starve to death, and in some cases are eaten by their mother.

Brown-headed bovid

Brown-headed bovine (Molothrus ater)

Malcolm Wood / Alamy via Legion Media

other people's nests. But sometimes troupials are even more cruel.

Researchers are aware of cases where "foster" parents realized that the eggs did not belong to them - some destroyed them, others built new nests or got rid of the chicks. The troopers didn't like it very much. For example, scientists described how a troupial destroyed the nest of a lemon warbler that did not feed other people's chicks.

Leopard iguana

Leopard iguana (Diplolaemus leopardinus)

@cristian_sepulveda_c / Instagram (an extremist organization banned in Russia)

Lizards, in principle, do not differ in their desire to take care of their offspring. But there is an iguana that spends a minimum of time on children. The leopard iguana lives in the Chilean Andes and protects its offspring for the first 48 hours. Then she leaves the cubs alone, walling them up in a hole.

Finally, the iguana leaves its own feces for the young to eat. In this way, the necessary substances and intestinal microbes are transferred to them.

Learn more