© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Outdoors: Mother's Day

I find it fascinating to view the natural world through the observations of our Junior Campers here at Interlochen. I remember one conversation during which a young theatre major announced that she thought it was ” totally unfair that male birds got all the good singing roles and better costumes.”

While I wouldn’t have said 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 the females.

As we approach Mother’s Day, it is good to remember that the mother bird that sits on the eggs, and sitting in a nest, she is vulnerable. But because she has drab and often somewhat mottled plumage, she is less likely to be detected by predators.

Furthermore, male sing and show off their fine feathers because the mother birds do the choosing. Instinctively, females are attracted to the best singers and to the potential mates with the most vivid coloration: avian eye-candy. And the male that most closely resembles her own father is the most desirable father for her offspring.

That makes sense. The feather color results from pigments in the birds’ food. To have bright brilliant feathers, a male must consume a great deal of highly 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 actually is 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 birders) to locate them. If females sang, predators would be able to locate the nest.

There are exceptions. Female cardinals sing, and while they are not quite as blatantly red as the males, they are more colorful than many other species. They tend to be secretive around their nest, but predators watch, and often locate and raid cardinal nests.

Luckily, cardinals are persistent. If their nest gets destroyed, they just start over. Researchers tell us that sometimes a pair may attempt to nest seven or eight times during a season before they raise a full brood.

Actually, for survival purposes, a drab, quiet bird mother has a much better chance of raising healthy offspring. Nature takes care of the mothers. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.