Mute swan Cygnus olor, cygnet on adult's back seeking shelter, Langford, Bedfordshire

Nature's dream dads

As it’s the time of year when we thank fathers everywhere for the contribution they make to family life, we thought it fitting to celebrate some of nature’s most dedicated dads. Mum’s not always the word!

Red fox cub at entrance to den under gravestone

Here are ten fathers who take their paternal duties seriously

Great crested grebe

The male of this species shares full responsibility for feeding its babies and will even let them ride around on its back without the need for a baby sling. Well done that grebe!

Midwife toad

Male midwife toads wrap strings of eggs around their hind legs and carry them until they’re ready to hatch. Although not a native species, midwife toad populations are known to exist in Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Devon.

Spiny and short-snouted seahorse

Seahorses are one of only a few examples in the animal kingdom where the male rather than the female gives birth. After producing eggs, the female seahorse will transfer up to a thousand to her male mate, who will then self-fertilise them before live birthing each baby seahorse during a labour that can last up to 12 hours. Ouch! Male seahorses experience contractions when they give birth to their young. On average, they deliver between 100 and 200 babies - known as fry - during a single pregnancy.

Red-necked phalarope

The male of one of the UK’s rarest birds, which migrates from south America to Shetland and the Western Isles every year, performs all incubating duties and looks after the young once they’re hatched. A nominee for Dad of the Year, perhaps?

Mute swan 

Monogamous male mute swans also carry their babies on their backs and are well known to be fiercely protective and nurturing. Make sure you steer clear of mute swan cygnets when dad's around!

Cockroach

Cockroaches get a bad rap but the male of the species is certainly no deadbeat dad. Coackroach fathers are known to eat bird droppings to obtain nitrogen, a necessary part of their diet, before carrying the nutrient back to their young. Wood-feeding cockroaches are also tidy parents, and will sweep nurseries clean to protect their families from infection. 

Emperor penguin

Emperor penguins are fantastic fathers. After the female lays an egg, her mate will balance the egg on his feet and cover it with a warm layer of feathered skin called a brood pouch. When the egg hatches, dad will use the same flap to protect the chick from the Antarctic cold. 

Red fox

Dog foxes are known to be doting dads, and play an important role in rearing their cubs. While they’re young, dad will hunt for food every day. After about three months, however, the free delivery service stops and father will bury food close to the family den to teach his nippers how to forage. What a champ!

Wolf

Male wolves will leave the pack to hunt for food once the female gives birth. When the father returns, he’ll regurgitate some of his prey for his pups, and will continue to do so for about three weeks, or until the pups are ready to leave the den. Maybe that's why Kipling chose a wolf - Akela - as Mowgli's surrogate dad in The Jungle Book!

Badger 

While living in a family group the boar badger will play a central role in raising its cubs. Dad will fiercely protect the family home, called a sett, and will also help keep youngsters on the straight and narrow.