Parenting chores cut into how much these bird dads fool around


black coucal
MEET THE COUCALS In the unusual lives of black coucals, females defend territories while males do all the work of raising chicks. All that parenting cuts into males’ time for infidelity, researchers report.

The extreme dads of the bird world do all the work raising chicks while females fight intruders. The result: Male black coucals don’t sleep around as much when busy parenting.

On occasion, a male black coucal (Centropus grillii) slips over to another male’s nest to sire a chick. The demands of incubating eggs, however, reduce a male’s excursions about 17 percent, on average, compared with male birds that didn’t have chicks. And during the frantic first week of parenting after eggs hatch, those philandering excursions drop by almost 50 percent, researchers report April 10 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

That’s when male coucals, native to sub-Saharan Africa, spend much of their days catching grasshoppers, frogs and other critters to feed chicks too frail to leave their woven grass nests, says behavioral ecologist Wolfgang Goymann at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. Even when chicks can leave the nest, they’ll need at least two more weeks of dad’s care.

A black coucal nest, a covered bowl woven of grass with an opening on the…
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