Outside: Mother’s Day | Interlochen Public Radio
I find it fascinating to see the natural world through the observations of our junior campers here in Interlochen. I remember a conversation in which a young theater student announced that she thought it was “totally unfair that the male birds got all the good singing roles and better costumes”.
Although I wouldn’t have put it quite that way, it is very true that in most cases only male birds sing and the plumage of male birds tends to be more colorful and distinctive than that of females.
As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s worth remembering that the mother bird incubating the eggs, and sitting in a nest, she is vulnerable. But because it has dull and often somewhat mottled plumage, it is less likely to be detected by predators.
In addition, the males sing and show off their fine feathers because it is the mother birds who choose. Instinctively, females are attracted to the best singers and the brightest colored potential mates: the avian eyes. And the male who most closely resembles his own sire is the most desirable sire to his offspring.
Makes sense. The color of the feathers results from the pigments present in the food of the birds. To have shiny and shiny feathers, a male needs to eat a lot of very nutritious food. It follows that a well-fed male would be the best provider for the nestlings. So when a mother bird favors a colorful mate, she is actually selecting a good father.
Singing is the same thing. Many male birds attract mates and also protect their territories by singing. But singing makes it easier for predators (and birdwatchers) to locate them. If the females sang, predators could locate the nest.
There are exceptions. Female cardinals sing and although they are not as conspicuously red as the males, they are more colorful than many other species. They tend to be stealthy around their nest, but predators will scout and locate and often attack cardinal nests.
Fortunately, the Cardinals are persistent. If their nest is destroyed, they start over. Researchers tell us that sometimes a pair may attempt to nest seven or eight times in a season before raising a full brood.
In fact, for survival reasons, a dull and calm mother bird has a much better chance of raising healthy offspring. Nature takes care of mothers. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.