We know fathers as dutiful and protective beings, who devote their lives to nurture their young ones. This Father’s Day, we take a moment to acknowledge dads in the animal kingdom! Here are 10 exemplary animal parents who, with their unparalleled devotion to raise their children, surely deserve a round of applause!
The first on the list are Barn Owls, who are monogamous birds that mate and stay together forever (well, until only one remains alive!). The couple tends to the children and their nest together by splitting all the necessary chores. While mothers incubate their eggs, fathers take the responsibility of bringing home the food. Fathers hunt, bring back prey animals, and even store them for later use.
Males from other species like the Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, and Short-eared Owl also dedicate their lives in raising their young ones. From looking for the perfect nesting spot to protecting their family, they tick all the right boxes!
Distinguished by their peculiar snout with a bulbous growth (or ghara) on the tip, male gharials are one of the most caring fathers. Along with the mothers, they ensure their offsprings are protected and tended to at all times. Often, fathers can be seen carrying their baby gharials on their backs from one spot to another. They are always on the lookout, and defend their territory from other intruding males and predators. In fact, females tend to pick and mate with the male who is capable of defending his territory the best.
Female Jacanas mate with several males, and it is the male bird’s duty to build a nest, incubate the eggs, and provide parental care to the young ones. This mating system is called polyandry, and is relatively rare in the bird world. The males are dedicated to raising the chicks, even if they aren’t their own! Breaking gender stereotypes, they spend the day defending their territory, bringing in food, being cautious and protective… all for their children!
Next on our list are not only fabulous fathers, but also amazing husbands: the Golden Jackals. These scavengers are known to mate for life and together, the parents survive effectively in the wild. Male and female jackals hunt together, defend their territory, and even divide tasks while raising a family. The male digs the burrow where the female gives birth and the two raise their family. Jackal males safeguard the mother and the young ones residing in the den. As fathers, they also engage in a unique feeding strategy which involves them regurgitating food for the young ones. These swallowed items are much softer and easier for the young ones to feed on.
Flamingos, the pink-streaked tall birds that take over the wetlands in gregarious numbers, make for excellent parents. Fathers give it their all by helping their partners: right from the gestation period, males construct mud nests to ensure that the pair has an appropriate site to lay eggs and raise their chicks. After the eggs are laid, fathers share responsibilities in equal measure by incubating the eggs, producing crop milk from their alimentary tract to feed the young ones, and protecting them. Flamingo fathers sure know how to maintain a balance!
Piggyback rides on our father make for one of the fondest memories we have of our own childhood. The same is true for frogs! Some male frogs are seen transporting young ones on their backs. In certain frog species, males even guard their eggs to ensure the survival of their young ones. They sometimes tuck egg clusters within their limbs, in their mouths, in vocal sacs, or over their bodies. They go above and beyond to care for their tadpoles. Fathers defend their brood from intruders with aggressive calls, wrestles, and even bites!
There comes a point in the life of a male Emperor Penguins when he is left alone to incubate the egg. While the mothers set on a hunt for nutritious meals, the males become the perfect stay-at-home dads! They hold and balance the eggs on their feet and cover them to provide warmth. Fathers also have a trick under their sleeves, in case the chicks hatch before the mothers’ return: they regurgitate to feed the newborns. When the couple is apart, the male penguins remain hungry and devote all their time to provide for their young ones. In fact, this ability is especially considered when females pick a partner; females seek those who can last longer without any provision of food.
As ultimate rule breakers, seahorse fathers are famously known for giving birth to their young ones. Not only are they among the very few species to do this, seahorses are also monogamous (how ideal!). The female deposits her eggs into her partner’s pouch, and the fertilised eggs are incubated by him for up to 30 days. These fish also supply their unborn children with extra amounts of oxygen, energy-laden fats, and enriching minerals. Once ready, males release over 500 tiny ones from their bellies. If there’s ever a contest for a superhero father, we know who the winner is!
Sandgrouses are sedentary birds inhabiting dry arid and semi-arid regions in India. These dull, brown-coloured birds are famous for their ability to voyage over a distance of 100 kilometres each day. With the help of specialised feathers on their abdomen, these birds are able to fulfil an essential need: they soak up water in them and provide it to their chicks. Both parents carry water back to cool their eggs as well as satiate their thirsty babies. However, the father also takes up the responsibility to tend to their young ones, right from incubating the eggs to providing food for the kids!
And lastly, it’s the king of the jungle himself! Lions possess a distinct favouritism for their own bloodline. Known to live in prides, the alpha male lion is considered to lead the entire group. With an aim to safeguard his own bloodline, lion fathers can fight and sometimes even kill the male cubs of other lions.
Each being strong and caring to protect their offsprings, it’s hard to qualify who among the 10 fathers qualifies as the best. For always being for their kids, cheers to all the papa animals!