Who’s the Best Dad?
All the wonderful human dads in our lives may be surprised to hear that they have some competition for the title “Best Dad” among our wild neighbors.
WildCare wishes dads of ALL types and all species a very happy Father's Day!
Want to honor the amazing dads in your life? Sponsor one of the wonderful wildlife fathers here (a Common Murre, a Gray Fox, an American Kestrel, a Violet-green Swallow or a California Quail) and send the Dad an eCard featuring this amazing wildlife father!
Since mammal mothers have mammary glands that provide nourishment for the young, mammal fathers aren’t as necessary as food providers. But there are exceptions.
Aside from some primate fathers (like ours) and those of a few other species, the canines win paws-down. Fox, coyote and wolf fathers all play a major role in canine family life.
Coyotes and wolves live in extended family packs, and the whole family helps feed, protect and babysit the new pups. A healthy brood of playful young coyotes or wolves is a testament to the hard work of mom, dad, and the whole family.
Gray Foxes live in a nuclear family of just parents and young, and the father hunts and brings food to his mate while the pups are nursing. Later he’ll bring food and prey to the young and teach them to hunt for themselves. Fox fathers have also been observed engaging in lively games with their pups.
Callers to WildCare's Living with Wildlife Hotline 415-456-7283 frequently report that the foxes in their yard really enjoy playing on their patio furniture.
Do you have a family of foxes in your yard? Consider yourself lucky! Although it may mean you can't use your favorite sun chair for a few weeks, that fox family (especially the father fox!) is providing free rodent control throughout your neighborhood!
Make sure no one in your area is using rat poison (which travels up the food chain and can easily kill fox kits like these), and enjoy these wonderful and usually elusive animals!
In the video below, you can see the whole Gray Fox family playing in the yard of WildCare supporter Danielle.
The young of precocial species of birds, like turkeys, ducks and chickens, whose youngsters are able to walk and eat solid foods soon after hatching are comparatively easy to raise. The little ones only need to watch mom and start pecking or dabbling.
But for the altricial species of birds, songbirds, raptors and others, raising baby birds is so labor-intensive that both parents have to work. Baby birds need to be fed nearly continuously from dawn to dark (or from dusk to dawn for nocturnal birds), and different species use different tactics.
Some bird parents share just about all their duties evenly. Others share some chores, and divide up the others. According to some researchers, orphaned male songbirds may be at a disadvantage in the mating game if dad isn’t around to teach them their love songs.
Common Murre parents, like most seabirds, also share the responsibility of caring for their young. Murre fathers are especially dedicated, however, as they stay with their chick for as long as a month to teach the baby the survival skills he'll need.
When it is time for the chick to leave the rocky cliffs on which murres nest, dad will call to his chick, encouraging the flightless, three week old baby to plunge into the water below.
Once a chick leaves the nesting cliff, the father stays with the chick for three or four weeks. He does all the fishing, diving to hunt for food while the chick stays floating on the surface. When the murre father reemerges with fish for them both to eat, dad and baby will reunite by calling to each other.
Most raptor parents divvy up the responsibilities of raising their young, with the female doing most of the incubating and the male doing most of the hunting.
Barn Owl fathers hunt all night to bring back gophers and other rodents for their growing owlets, which the mother owl rips into pieces to feed their babies.
Salute to Foster, Adoptive, and Step Dads
You certainly don't have to be the biological father of a baby to be a wonderful dad! WildCare's former Wildlife Ambassador American Kestrel, Kele (who passed away in early 2021) is a testament to that.
If he had been a wild kestrel, Kele would have done the majority of hunting to feed his mate and their chicks. Kestrel dads work hard! But Kele had been raised by people, so, when we admitted a baby kestrel to the Wildlife Hospital, we didn't know if he would understand how to care for a fluffy-headed youngster.
After an introductory period, we placed the chick and a camera into a carrier and gave Kele plenty of food to potentially bring to the baby.
We were relieved and happy to see that Kele was a WONDERFUL dad!
Watch him gently care for the chick in the video below, and appreciate how much this funny wobbly baby benefited from Kele's care! Kele helped successfully rear three kestrel chicks, demonstrating what an excellent dad he was to chicks of all ages.
Photos: Cover photo American Robins Adobe Stock ©styxclick, Gray Fox kit @Al Ramadan, Fox kits in hanging chair ©Susy Kelly, American Robins Adobe Stock©Terry Reimink, Common Murres Adobe Stock ©Claire, Barn Owl parent and baby Adobe Stock ©Albert Beukhof, American Kestrel ©Marian Eschen