Do birds have sex?

When I signed the lease to my new place in Santa Monica, I wasn’t aware that I’d have not one, but potentially six roommates until I got an e-mail from my soon-to-be roommate with a picture of Mrs. Bird’s nest with four little eggs sitting on the window sill of our bathroom window.

Aside from when she’d bitch us out when we took a shower, there weren’t any other problems. But I dreaded the day four baby birds would start chirping incessantly at the crack of dawn.

Not too long ago, one of the eggs hatched. It happened as my roommate and I were getting ready for work, so we actually got to witness the baby pecking and stretching out of the egg. It was quite amazing. We’ve been checking on it and tracking its growth every day, as it grows bigger and gets more feathers. The other eggs haven’t hatched, so my roommate and I are worried that they might not end up hatching. Maybe they got too cold with the recent gloomy weather we’ve been having? Maybe they didn’t get fertilized?

This concern got my roommate and I thinking. How does that whole process work? How does a bird come out of an egg that’s the size of a jelly bean? How do the eggs get fertilized? Or more importantly, do bird’s have sex?

So after some intense pondering, I decided to do some research and get some answers. The first thing I did was type “do birds have sex?” into Google. The first entry was from “Robert” on Answerbag.com. He said, “Surprisingly birds have sex very similarly to the way which most mammals do, with the male mounting the female from behind and inserting sperm into the female with the avian equivalent of a penis.”

OK, so now I knew a little more and felt a little better just knowing that the deed is actually done. But, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the answer: First, birds are not mammals, so his answer is a bit off. But second, what the heck is an “avian equivalent of a penis”?!

The second Google entry confirmed Robert was correct, but offered a little more information. During breeding season, birds get horny – or at least know that it’s about that time to start the circle of life – and they mate just the way many animals do: the male mounts the female. I didn’t know this. While I didn’t even have the slightest on how Paulie and Penny reproduced, I didn’t know it was through standard animal intercourse.

Well, I guess it isn’t actually “intercourse”, but pretty darn close. In the most basic sense, the male bird’s “area” comes in contact with the female bird’s “area”, and then the fertilization happens. I’ll let the experts at Yahoo! Answers take the floor from here . . .

“The male’s sperm, produced in the testes, passes to the cloaca where it is stored until copulation (act of sex). The female also has a cloaca that leads from the ovaries. The female bird unfans her tail, moves it to one side while the male climbs up onto her back or gets close to her. Their cloacas are pressed together and the sperm moves from the male to the female. This act is called a cloacal kiss. The sperm is stored by the female for at least a week, in some species over a hundred days. Then as each ovum from the ovary moves into the oviduct, it gets fertilized with the stored sperm, producing a clutch of many eggs, all with the sperm from that one cloacal kiss. There are a few species of birds where the males do possess a retractable penis that can be pulled back into the bird. These birds include ostriches, cassowaries, kiwis, swans, geese and ducks. Since waterfowl sometimes make love while in the lake or pond, the penis helps ensure that the sperm is not washed away by the water. Sperm can be transferred from male cloaca to the female in a blink of an eye – less than a second. Some birds seem to want to linger longer though, sometimes having sex for more than an hour! And, although it is not necessary to copulate frequently, since the sperm is stored within the female, remember those hormones are still making the birds excited. Many pairs of birds will mate numerous times within a few days.”

Interesting stuff, right? Thanks to Mrs. Bird, I now know more about birds mating then I’ll ever need to know. And my roommate and I got to see the miracle that Mrs. Bird and Mr. Bird created as baby broke loose from the shell. It really was amazing. Sadly, none of the other eggs hatched, and they actually disappeared. So I’m guessing they got nudged out of the nest when they were determined duds.

Baby bird’s chirping wasn’t as bad as I expected. But he made a mess of our window sill, crapping everywhere. So needless to say, we were very eager for him to grow up and take the plunge so we could push the nest out of the window panes and scrub the sill down. We wish him luck! May he find his mate to continue the circle of life.

Published by lindsayeholloway

Writer... editor... environmentalist... athlete...

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