Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 47:36–37; 2015


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Alloparental care (i.e., care for unrelated offspring) has been documented in various avian species (Maxson 1978, Smith et al. 1996, Tella et al. 1997, Lislevand et al. 2001, Literak and Mraz 2011). A male replacement mate that encounters existing broods has options, which include alloparental care or infanticide. Infanticide may be beneficial in some species (Rohwer 1986, Kermott et al. 1990), but in long-lived avian species, like the ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) that do not renest within a season, infanticide might be detrimental. Adoption and rearing success likely provide direct evidence of competence of replacement mates as potential parents for future seasons, a benefit that might outweigh the investment of time and effort associated with adoption and rearing (after Rohwer 1986). Anticipated mating opportunity at the cost of adoption (Gori et al. 1996, Rohwer et al. 1999) may explain step-parental benevolence and therefore, in such a scenario would enhance individual fitness through subsequent recruitment of related young.

Male replacement mates have been documented for peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), and at least 13 non-raptorial (11 Passeriformes, 1 Galliformes, and 1 Piciformes) avian species (Rohwer 1986, Meek and Robertson 1991, Lislevand et al. 2001); in all cases, potential for renesting existed and replacement males were exposed mostly to eggs rather than young. However, ferruginous hawks are noted as “apparently” monogamous with no evidence of alloparental behavior (Bechard and Schumutz 1995). Here we report an instance of adoption of four ferruginous hawk nestlings by an adult male ferruginous hawk following death of the male parent. We document execution of parental duties by the replacement male conjointly with the female parent.