‘Divorce’ rates are higher in birds that travel long distances

Break-ups are more common in bird species with longer migrations, probably because partners return home at different times and don’t wait for each other to breed

Life 7 November 2022

Flock of Arctic Terns

The 30,000-kilometre migratory round trips of Arctic terns can play havoc with relationships

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

Birds that migrate long distances tend to be more likely than others to break up with their partner, according to an analysis of 232 species.

About 90 per cent of bird species are socially monogamous, meaning they form couples that primarily breed with each other and raise offspring together. Some of these couples stay together for life, while others end up getting “divorced” and moving onto new partners.

To identify factors that lead to bird break-ups, …

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