Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
bird singing
Male zebra finches, small songbirds native to central Australia, learn their songs by copying what they hear from their fathers. These songs, often used as mating calls, develop early in life as juvenile birds experiment with mimicking the sounds they hear.  From MIT and Singing in the Brain.



The Wall Street Journal article Why Bird Fathers Are Superior and the subtitle, They are attentive parents, building nests, feeding chicks and even showing their young how to sing, deserves a shout out to the mammal dads involved in their children’s education and the fight against current educational reforms:

Tally up the good dads and the bad dads in the animal world, and mammals come up surprisingly short. Males provide direct care of their young in less than 5% of mammal species. Some mammals, like grizzly bears, are notoriously bad dads, known to kill their own cubs—perhaps as a draconian strategy for regulating population size.

The small minority of good dads among mammals includes marmosets (which groom, feed and carry their infants), golden jackals (which regurgitate food for their young) and humans, of course. But most mammal fathers are deadbeats with a “love ’em and leave ’em” approach, sticking around only to mate.

Then there are birds. For our avian friends, attentive care of the young by both males and females is the norm. True, females shoulder the full parenting load in a few avian families, such as hummingbirds. But in some 90% of bird species, the males stay around to help: They share the duties of nest-building, incubate eggs, feed brooding females and the chicks, even train their young for independent life. Birds, in short, have a system of parenting not unlike our own, despite being separated from us by some 300 million years of evolutionary history.


Writing a report on the roles of male birds in their offspring’s life would be an excellent assignment for your student.  According to the author, lessons from bird behavior could be helpful for mammal males:


Some modern feathered fathers even fall into the category of heroic single dads. Take the male cassowary of New Guinea and Australia, a large, glossy black, flightless species that sits alone on the nest for some 50 days, not eating and barely drinking until his chicks hatch. Or consider the wattled jacana of South America, a wading bird that practically walks on water. Another Mr. Mom of the bird world, it builds a nest from floating plants and keeps the eggs warm not by sitting on them but by tucking them under each wing. If the nest starts to sink or the chicks are threatened, the bird may ferry them under his wings to a new site.

Perhaps the most impressive bit of bird fathering is the way that many male birds model behavior for their young, especially when it comes to birdsong. Male songbirds tutor their young on how to produce the distinctive songs of their species in a sophisticated process that may help to explain how other animals, including humans, learn complicated skills.

Darwin called birdsong “the nearest analogy to language.” Indeed, song-learning in birds turns out to have striking similarities with how humans learn speech, from the process of listening, imitating and practicing all the way down to the brain structures and genes involved.


Like a human dad happily reading to a child, a skilled male bird will model fine singing for his offspring. The baby bird sits silently, soaking up the sounds just as a human baby does. As his father sings, the young bird begins to memorize. Soon he starts to imitate his father, to practice his own faulty peeps and trills like a babbling baby. Then, after something like two million notes of trial and error, he arrives at a strikingly true version of dad’s song.

This sparkling birdsong, like human language, will help him to establish a home, find a partner and secure his place in the flock and family life. And when he himself is finally a father, he will faithfully pass it along to his own brood of young ones.


Thanks to the dads who are fighting against the rules of current education reform and instead, are instilling the values, attitudes and beliefs of their personal experience.  You are a critical part of your children’s lives.  Happy Father’s Day!  And here’s to the dad who was arrested while trying to protect his children from centralized control of education.  He already knows how to think *critically* without CCSS:



We need more *bird fathers* not *cattle fathers*.  (Watch the video)

Just saying.

Gretchen Logue