Father's Day Celebrating Dads in the Wild
Happy Father’s Day! When you arrive in Fort Myers for a dedicated dad-cation, why not take a moment to look at the father figures out there in the wilderness and water?
A Bittersweet Eagle Tale
A pair of eagles named M15 and Harriet captivated the hearts of adoring fans, thanks to their starring roles on the SWFL eagle cam. Live from their treetop nest in a North Fort Myers horse pasture, the camera has captured many meaningful moments in their lives — from raising their young and fighting off intruders to triumphantly rebuilding after Hurricane Ian.
Life took a turn in early spring of 2023 when Harriet flew off — presumably to get food for her newest eaglets — and did not return. Casual observers and wildlife experts took note, but there has been no sign of her. Her mate has stayed strong and carried out the duties of both mom and dad in her absence. At first he was hesitant to stray too far from the nest; he finally eased up on the helicopter parenting and the eaglets are now fully fledged thanks to his parenting prowess. Way to fly up, dad!
We asked Sanibel’s resident malacologist what kind of family dynamics mollusks have. “Not much,” says Dr. José Leal, Science Director and Curator at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. “There is an exception for cowries, where the mother will stay around the egg capsule and clean it. But once the young hatch out, there’s really no parental care in mollusks.”
But, he says, we shouldn’t overlook the contributions of seahorse dads! After the moms lay their eggs, the dads incubate the embryos in their tails until it’s time to release them into the water. Talk about a superdad!
Dads in the Air
You can trust most birds to be serially monogamous — that is, they stick together for a breeding season, and then it’s on to the next conquest. That style of mating is common among Southwest Florida’s favorites, like the great blue heron and roseate spoonbill. Not every bird dad can be like a bald eagle that mates for life and enjoys cooperative breeding with its partner.
Turn your eyes to birds of prey, and it’s a different story! Ospreys mate for life. The dad-to-be usually picks out the nesting site, the pair collects materials, and the female arranges the nest that could become their home for years to come. Then again, maybe bald eagles have it all figured out — they mate for life but spend winter months and migration periods on their own. You can count on dad to keep the eggs warm when mom takes a break, and when the offspring emerge, he’s in charge of providing food for the first two weeks.
From this Father’s Day and beyond, get to know Southwest Florida’s wildlife families in their natural habitats. Who knows, maybe you’ll pick up a few tips along the way!