Justifying the Old Ball and Chain

On Wednesday we looked at birds that mate for life. Now I want to explore the rationale behind that. One really good reason is that the time and energy spent in attracting a new mate every year can instead be channeled into establishing a territory, laying the eggs, incubating, and raising the young. Much more logical for migratory birds.

Beyond that, I can’t find much else to support the bonding for life. Parrots do it, for the most part, for exactly these reasons. http://pets.thenest.com/parrots-pair-life-12861.html

So what benefits the birds who don’t pair bond for more than a season? Mortality rates are high for first season breeders. If the young bird’s genes are going to get a chance to survive, optimal reproduction calls for more than one nest and more than one mate. http://blog.duncraft.com/2012/01/23/do-birds-mate-for-life/

Often with companion parrots, they pick us as their mate for life, and want to then get on with the business of copulation, laying eggs, raising the young, and so on. They just don’t understand why we want something different. Here’s an excellent article on the signs your bird is sending to you that you need to pay attention to. Unless, of course, you are ready to lay those eggs. http://bird-paradise.biz/lets-talk-about-the-birds-the-bees-with-birds/

Back in the wild, say it’s mating season again, which it almost is in the southern hemisphere. Rain is falling, grass and trees are growing and seeding or fruiting. The days are lengthening. A young cock’s fancy turns will attract the females. Getting in touch with his creative side, male birds put on a great display. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rebeccae/5-hilarious-bird-mating-dances For certain values of “great.”

The various birds of paradise are the champions at the display part of the show, as seen in these videos:

http://www.wired.com/2013/09/birds-of-paradise-videos/

What’s the point behind all this display and dancing just to mate? Especially if the mating is going to be quickly done and quickly over? Apparently birds might be confused as to the species of their potential sex partner. And mating outside your species is a waste of time, effort, and genetic materials. So better to do what dad and granddad and so on back to the beginning of the species have done to tell the girls, I’m hip, I’m in good health, and I know the routine. Come and get me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtship_display

I haven’t spent too much time on song or sounds, but these too are important parts of all the courtship rituals. In a dense jungle or forest, sound is the best way to attract the girls. Even in an urban setting, where sounds might not get so far due to tall buildings blocking the waves or other sounds competing, song still serves a purpose. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/birdsongs/whysing/document_view

The end result, whether with a life-long mate or a for now mate, is a new generation of babies that will keep the species alive and learn to dance just like mommy or daddy teaches them. This is the goal, passing on the genetic material and the ritual ensures, usually, that the most fit and most worthy pairs are successful. http://beautyofbirds.com/swanbreeding.html

Have a good day, happy July, and I’ll be back on Wednesday.

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