The characteristics of animal families can vary greatly. Befitting their different habits and habitats, dads in the animal kingdom can exhibit an astonishing range of behaviors. Some show no concern for their offspring, others limit their involvement to specific stages of their offspring's lives, while a small handful show the same degree of concern as humans.
Different wildlife dads found in the United States have varied, interesting roles to play in the lives of their offspring. They serve as providers, protectors, teachers, and caretakers.
There are a number of frogs that have found some measure of fame for their paternal care. For example, the male Darwin's frog stores his offspring in his vocal sac to keep them safe, while the male marsupial frog has a much more practical solution to the same problem in the form of a brood pouch. In the United States, the barking frog is the sole species of frog known to exhibit paternal care, with the male remaining close to the eggs to re-moisturize them as the need comes up.
Great Horned Owl
Possessing an unmistakable profile, the great horned owl inhabits a remarkable range of habitats, encompassing all of the United States, much of Canada, plus enormous stretches of both Central and South America. During mating season, the male of the species puffs up his throat before hooting for the attention of local females. Once the female has laid her clutch of eggs, she begins incubating them while her partner flies out to hunt for both her and their eventual offspring. This is a challenging mission, not least because the female is about 25 percent bigger than the male.
Canids include some of the most paternal mammals out there, so it should come as no surprise to learn that red foxes make for caring and considerate dads. Vixens remain at home to protect their kits, meaning that the males are responsible for hunting in the earliest period of their lives. This lasts until the kits can start experimenting with solid food, at which point the mated pair begin sharing the burden of finding food. As kits continue to mature, their dads begin teaching them survival skills, which include foraging, storing surplus food, and concealing their homes.
The American robin can be found throughout North America, in part because it is one of the species of birds that migrate before winter can set in. Females of the species are responsible for building their nests, but males help collect the material even before their offspring have been born. Once the babies emerge from their eggs, both the male and the female begin feeding and protecting them, with such fervor that robins have been known to dive at dangerous animals ranging from humans to cats and dogs.
Despite their famous aggression, wolverine dads have an important role in the lives of their offspring. Successful males will form life-long bonds with two or three females, who mate in the summer but wait until the winter to litter. Male wolverines will visit their offspring on a regular basis, helping to teach them survival skills until they are weaned at about six months of age. Newly mature wolverines will wander off, but curiously, some of them will do so in the company of their dads.
Learning More About Wildlife Dads
In the end, there can be no doubt that observing wildlife in their natural habitats is one of the most interesting benefits to spending time in nature. Focusing on familiar aspects such as paternal care help us connect, while also broadening our horizons by illustrating the remarkable differences that can exist between humans and wildlife.