Grey seals pup and adult female lie on the beach together, Blakeney Point

Nature's greatest mums

Where would the natural world be without brilliant mums? We celebrate nature’s most nurturing, intuitive and self-sacrificing supermums.

Blue tit, Parus caeruleus, perched on decorative iron boot cleaner in garden. Co. Durham

Here are some of natures most amazing mums

Mum’s the word

Our mother’s voice is one of the first things we ever hear, and it’s no different for birds. It’s been found that mother birds can communicate with their chicks while still in the egg, so that when they do hatch, they recognise her call.

Bright and beautiful

For blue tits, a brightly-coloured head is the sign of good motherhood. According to a study by the University of York, female birds with brighter crowns were found to successfully fledge more offspring. The blue on their heads shows up as UV-reflectant in the eyes of other birds, signalling good maternal qualities to prospective mates. These bright birds also demonstrated lower stress levels.

The female blue tit builds the nest herself, then lays around 8-12 eggs (one each day).  If she has made a good choice of mate, he will bring her food while she incubates, then both parents feed the chicks until they fledge, usually in early June.

Doing it for the kids

Kids keeping you up? Mother killer whales don’t sleep for up to two months after giving birth (neither do their offspring). Meanwhile a mother polar bear won’t eat for up to eight months while in her maternity den.

Surrogate parents

For many species, the urge to ‘mother’ is so strong it can overcome all other instincts. In 2014, you might have cooed at the gorgeous story of a cat unexpectedly mothering a clutch of ducklings. The cat had recently given birth and, when the ducklings hatched soon after, instead of seeing them as prey she incorporated the fluffy newcomers into her own brood. 

There have been many instances of animals ‘adopting’ the orphaned young of different species: search for Rocky and Cindy (Great Dane and fawn) and Jess, the sheepdog who bottle-feeds lonely lambs. You won't be disappointed!

Smell you later

The exotic-looking hoopoe is a rare visitor to the UK, though it nests in warmer climates. After laying its eggs in a tree cavity, the female covers her clutch in a foul-smelling secretion. It’s thought that this protects the eggs against bacteria as well as making them less appealing to predators. Delightful!

Mum knows best

Baby orang-utans stay with their mothers for around 10 years, learning valuable life lessons from her such as finding food and making shelters. This is thought to be the longest any animal spends with its mother, after humans.  One slight difference though: orang-utans breastfeed until they’re eight!