Birds Also Divorce From Partners

Like humans, birds divorce their partners too. Affairs and extended periods of separation lead to divorce among birds, according to a study.

In the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers from China and Germany examined data on divorce rates in 232 bird species. They took into account factors such as mortality and migration distances and assigned “promiscuity scores” to males and females based on their behaviour.

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While the majority of bird species are monogamous, remaining with a single mate for at least one breeding season, some opt for a new partner in subsequent seasons, a behaviour known as “divorce.” The study found that species with high divorce rates were often closely related to each other, as were species with low divorce rates. This pattern also applied to male promiscuity.

PROMISCUITY

The researchers discovered a correlation between higher male promiscuity and increased divorce rates. When a male bird is promiscuous, it may be perceived as a decline in commitment, as his attention and resources are divided among multiple females. This can make him less desirable as a partner, increasing the likelihood of divorce in the next breeding season. On the other hand, male birds can enhance their reproductive success by mating with multiple females.

Interestingly, the study found that female promiscuity did not have the same consequences. Uncertainty about offspring paternity could lead to increased male involvement in parental care, mitigating the impact of female promiscuity on divorce rates.

MIGRATION

The researchers also observed that species with longer migration distances had higher divorce rates. Migration can lead to situations where pairs arrive at different times or land in different breeding sites, potentially resulting in divorce due to accidental separation or the opportunity for early arrivals to mate with different partners.

The study suggests that divorce in birds may be influenced by a combination of factors, including male promiscuity, migration distances, mortality rates, and ecological factors. It is not merely a strategy to enhance reproductive success but rather a complex interplay between individual behaviour and environmental circumstances.

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