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Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds | Book suggestion

March 15, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Wenfei Tong | Princeton University Press | 2020

The following text is excerpted from an article in Natural History Magazine June 2020 (from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City), The Family Life of Birds: Why some individuals of species make more faithful partners. Written by the book’s author Wenfei Tong and itself excerpted from the book. This is another book I have not yet read, but looks really good. So many books, so little time!

Natural History Magazine
More than 90 percent of birds appear to be monogamous, in that males and females form pair-bonds and raise chicks together….Males and females don’t always want the same thing out of a reproductive relationship, and mating systems are the outcomes of a battle of the sexes to leave the most descendants, played out in individual lifetimes and over generations of evolution. Mating systems are defined by the number of partners each sex has – monogamy for one female and one male, polyandry for one female mating with multiple males, polygyny for the reverse, and polygynandry for reciprocal promiscuity.

[M]ajor groups of birds tend to be more monogamous if their chicks require more care. A young eagle or albatross cannot survive without the care of two parents, who are part of a stable, long-term relationship. In contrast, ducklings are so independent they can feed themselves from the moment of hatching, and we see little parental investment by most male ducks. Closely related birds from the same genus have different mating systems largely because of what they eat and where they live. For instance, forest-dwelling weaverbirds are generally insectivorous, and remain in monogamous pairs that guard territories all year round. It takes two adults to catch enough insects to feed a hungry brood.

Author Wenfei Tong is a research associate in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a faculty member of the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She runs nature tours from her hometown of Missoula, Montana.

All photos in this blog are from her Big Sky Safaris website. readers gives Bird Love a 5-star rating

More than 90 percent of birds appear to be monogamous, but beneath the surface there is a huge variety of mating systems in play, from temporary monogamy and extra-pair mating to multiple partners for either sex, with some species switching between these as their circumstances change.

Discover the amazing array of courtship techniques employed by birds around the world:
Male bowerbirds construct extravagant galleries to attract females
Ospreys bring gifts of food in exchange for sex
Male skylarks perform simultaneous aerial and vocal acrobatics to impress females
The practice of lekking, where males in a species such as grouse gather to display to females, who then complete reproduction solo, from nesting to raising chicks

Wenfei Tong is interviewed by Mark Bekoff in Psychology Today

I recently read a fascinating, comprehensive, and beautifully illustrated book about numerous aspects bird behavior called Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds, and I’m pleased to post this interview with its author, Wenfei Tong. A summary of the book can be seen here. Wenfei is a biologist with a passion for understanding and conserving the natural world. She went to Princeton and Oxford as an undergraduate, and has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Harvard, where she is currently a research associate.I wanted to know more about Wenfei and her outstanding book and I’m pleased she could take the time to answer a few questions….

Review from Good Reads

A video conversation with author Wenfei Tong. 48 minutes

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