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Why fly the coop? With shortage of mates, some birds choose to help others raise offspring

bird cooperation

Source: news.fsu.edu

It’s not uncommon for young adults to pitch in and help out with the care of younger siblings. But it turns out that sometimes birds choose to become avian au pairs rather than raise their own brood.

After a five-year experiment, researchers from Florida State University and the Tallahassee-based Tall Timbers Research Station found that when fewer mates were available for brown-headed nuthatches, these small pine-forest birds opted to stay home and help their parents or other adults raise their offspring.

The study is published in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

Associate Professor of Biological Science Emily DuVal and Jim Cox, a vertebrate ecologist from Tall Timbers and a courtesy faculty member at FSU, had long been interested in how these tiny birds showed cooperation — that is often having non-breeding young adults hang out and help raise chicks. After all, bypassing the chance to reproduce is not typically how nature works. MORE

Header image: Researchers from Florida State University and the Tallahassee-based Tall Timbers Research Station found that when fewer mates were available for brown-headed nuthatches, these small pine-forest birds opted to stay home and help their parents or other adults raise their offspring. Credit: Tara Tanaka.

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