Outdoors: Father's favor
With owls, just like in Shakespeare's "King Lear," a good father may favor one or two offspring, while the silent owlet may not survive.
As Father’s Day approaches, I lovingly think of my own father. As one of three sisters, I can say that almost to a fault, my father did everything he could to treat the three of us equally.
So I find the opening act of Shakespeare’s "King Lear" disturbing.
Actually, I find the whole play—with its false flattery, lust for power and disloyalty—both disturbing and timely.
In nature, would a father favor one offspring over another?
We absolutely cannot generalize about the parenting responsibilities of wildlife.
In some species, the father is totally uninvolved; in others, the father is the primary caregiver; and countless parenting behaviors fall between those two extremes.
But “Lear” reminds me of great horned owls. The mother incubates the eggs, but the father starts out as a good provider for his mate and the young.
Most birds lay all of their eggs before they start incubating them.
But an owl starts incubating her first egg as soon as she lays it—which is a good thing.
Around here, owls lay their eggs in late winter, and an egg would freeze if left uncovered.
But this means that the owlets hatch different times, usually spaced out by a couple days.
So the first born is bigger and stronger. The eldest and even the second-born probably beg with the most vigor.
Consequently, the older nestlings get most of the food, while the silent youngest may go hungry.
In times of food shortages, the youngest and weakest owlet may starve or be killed by its older siblings.
In nature, or at least with owls, a good father may favor one or two offspring, while the silent owlet may not survive.
Not quite how it ends in Shakespeare, but I guess in nature, all’s well that ends in the perpetuation of the species.