We’ve heard it countless times: certain species of birds mate for life, including geese, swans, doves, cranes, and eagles. It’s a true statement, for the most part, but it’s only part of the story.
About 90% of bird species are monogamous, which means a male and a female such as this beautiful cardinal couple, will form a pair bond. But monogamy isn’t the same as mating for life. A pair bond may last for just one nesting, such as with house wrens; one breeding season, common with most songbird species; several seasons, or even for life.
Lots of monogamous bird species “cheat”! Social monogamy seems to be more common than sexual monogamy. Social monogamy refers to the male bird’s role in parenting. In most songbird species, the male defends a nest and territory, feeds an incubating mate, bring food to nestlings and feeds young fledglings. Social monogamy is when a male bird is actively involved in nesting and rearing the young. Then they’re free to find other partners for the next breeding season.