This Sunday is Father’s Day – a chance for us to say to thanks to our dad’s for all they do. But you don’t only find great dads amongst our visitors; there are some great dads that live in the Stanley Park all year round.
The three-spined stickleback is perhaps our ultimate dedicated dad. The stickleback is one of the most common fresh water fish in the park. Despite only growing to about 4 centimetres in length, it’s remarkably successful. Part of the reason is the effort each male puts in to ensure breeding is successful each year. The male builds a small tunnel shaped nest at the bottom of the pond, which he fills wityh pieces of plants and stones. Then he has to attract a female. In the stickleback world, this means doing an elaborate zigzag dance to encourage one of the local ladies to return to his nest, where she will lay her eggs.
Once this is done, though, the female’s work is over and the male sets to taking care of the newly laid eggs. For the next 7-10 days he remains at the entrance of his tunnel and swims on the spot day and night. You might be asking what kind of childcare that is? The point is that the movement of his fins creates a current of oxygenated water through the nest, which allows the eggs to develop properly. His job isn’t over even when the young hatch. The male makes sure the new youngsters remain in the safety of the nest for several days even going as far as sucking up any that escape and spitting them back into the nest.
While no one can quite match the male stickleback, you may not realise that many male birds also play a big part in childcare. This is the case for two of the most iconic species in the park. Both the male great blue heron and the male bald eagle share nest duties almost equally with their mate including incubating the eggs.
By Ben Hill, Communications Volunteer