Animal Family Types
Dad Takes Care

The sunfish dad dutifully scrapes out a nest on the lake’s bottom. He is one of a group of males that cluster their nests shoulder to shoulder in a large colony. When they have all built their nests, it looks like a moonscape of dish-shaped nests. He will defend this bowl-shaped territory from all other males, while welcoming in any females in the hope they will lay their eggs with him. Once a female has chosen him and laid her eggs in the nest, she leaves, never to see her offspring. 

The male sunfish stays in the nest for days, fanning the eggs with his fins so that lots of oxygen passes by. Once the eggs hatch, the helpless young sit on the bottom for a couple more days before getting the strength to swim. Then, they stay in the nest area for a while longer before venturing off into the weeds on their own. All this time (about seven days), the father fish will not take a moment to leave to eat. He stays put, guarding his eggs, then babies, from fish, snails, and other predators.

Phalarope birds are different from many other birds because the male sits on the eggs and takes care of the young. In almost all other birds, the female takes more care of the eggs and young than the male (some of them share the duties).

Phalaropes are shorebirds that spend most of their time in the far north. They look sort of like large sandpipers. One species, the Wilson’s phalarope, can be found in California.  In phalaropes, it is the female -- not the male -- that is the colorful one. She courts a male and lays her eggs in his nest. Then the dad takes over all duties of incubating the eggs and watching over the chicks once they hatch.

See other family types by following the links on the right side of the page.

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