Love is a fickle thing—even in barn owls. These normally monogamous birds sometimes call it quits and move on to new partners—nearly a quarter of the time, in fact, says a new study published April 28 in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Among people in the U.S., the divorce rate is about 40 percent.
And while these “divorces” may mean sacrificing quality for quantity, both sexes can benefit from the split.
On a faithful note, barn owls tend to divorce only when breeding isn’t going well—for example, if there are only a few eggs laid or not many surviving chicks. When a pair is making a lot of babies, the birds remain quite loyal—and that chick-making relationship only gets better with time because the two mate more often, potentially maximizing the size of the family long-term.
Sometimes, It’s Splitsville
Amélie N. Dreiss and Alexandre Roulin, of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, studied a population of free-living barn owls in western Switzerland for 24 years, observing how the pairs bonded and how many babies they had.
Barn owls are productive parents, often laying two broods per year with up to 11 (an average of six) eggs per brood.