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Word of the Week: Allopreen

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Allopreen AL-uh-preen] (verb): Refers to a form of social grooming among birds, in which one bird preens another or a pair does so mutually.

Allopreening is often performed with the overall goal of strengthening social bonds. You can see this behaviour between mated pairs of birds where both the male and female raise offspring together or in mated pairs where the birds might be separated for a long period of time. Allopreening will become a part of their mating and greeting ritual! For example, male and female penguins will allopreen when they are reunited after a long incubation shift where one of the mates was feeding at sea for days or weeks.The importance of this behaviour also goes beyond the social dynamics of mated pairs! Allopreening can also help reduce conflict or tensions among large flocks or breeding colonies of birds.

Clearly, allopreening plays a really big part in strengthening social bonds among birds. However it can also serve another purpose…

For species of birds that tend to gather in large flocks, individuals spend a lot of time in close proximity to one another, which can lead to parasites and other pests easily being transferred. With that in mind, these birds will allopreen to keep parasites and pests, like ticks, under control within the flock.

Some High Park examples of allopreening birds include American Crows and Turkey Vultures. Be sure to look for them and other allopreening birds on your next visit to High Park!