Humans are not alone in the animal kingdom when it comes to divorce. This is a fact that might come as a surprise to many, but the scientific community has been studying it for years. They are trying to answer the question of how and why certain other species “divorce.”
An article in Scientific American states, “[w]hen ornithologists refer to ‘divorce,’ they mean that both members of a breeding pair survive to the following breeding season but end up pairing with new partners rather than reuniting.”
When viewing splits between birds this way, the numbers can be quite high for some species. Emperor penguins are known to divorce 85% of the time, and great blue herons split up every breeding season to find a new partner. On the other end of the spectrum, mallard ducks tend to stay together with a divorce rate of only 9%, and albatross pairs hardly ever split from one another.
A recent study focused on a single bird species, the Eurasian blue tit, to determine how often and why these birds split from their partners. The study followed the particular species for 8 years to determine their breeding habits. The research found that “even though faithful pairs produced more eggs and reared more fledglings,” 64% of the bird-couples ultimately split up after each breeding season. The study ultimately found that divorce was more a matter of timing than partner incompatibility. In general, bird pairs were likely to stick to together if they returned to their previous territory on time. However, when bird pairs’ timing was off, the earlier-returning bird simply didn’t have the time to wait around for their former partner to start breeding.
To learn more about this interesting topic, read this article.
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