How Do Birds Mate? - Courtship and Sex in Birds

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How Do Birds Mate?

Spring is the breeding season for most birds, but how do birds mate? The sexual encounter is essential for fertilizing the eggs to raise young birds, but intercourse is only a brief part of the courtship and marriage bond between the birds.

The Reproductive Anatomy of Birds

Most birds do not have the same reproductive body parts as mammals. Instead, both male and female birds have a cloaca. This opening (also called a vent) serves as a body outlet for the digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems.

This means that the same opening that excretes feces and urine is the opening where the eggs are laid. During the breeding season, the cloaca swells and may protrude slightly from the body, while the rest of the year it is much less prominent and is generally not visible.

When birds are ready to reproduce, their reproductive organs, testes, and ovaries, swell and produce sperm and eggs. Males store sperm in their cloaca until a mating opportunity arises, and females will receive this sperm in their cloaca before it travels deeper into their bodies to fertilize their eggs and begin egg formation.

Bird Courtship

The courtship between a pair of birds can last much longer than the actual act of copulation. Dating behavior can include several stages, from initially claiming territory to courting a potential mate with visual and auditory displays such as dazzling plumage, spectacular flights, intricate songs, or even elaborate dances.

The courtship period is when a male bird shows her health and strength to convince the female that he is her best possible mate and will help her raise the strongest and healthiest chicks with the best chances of survival.

How Birds Have Sex

Once a female is receptive to a mate, be it a new mate each breeding season or simply renewing bonds with a partner for life, actual mating can take place. The positions and postures that birds adopt for mating can vary, but the most common is that the male balances on the female.

The female can lean, lie down, or lean over to give the male an easier balance, and both birds look in the same direction. Then she will move her tail to the side to expose her vent to hers within reach of hers, and he will arch or curve her body so that her vent can touch hers. The brief friction of the cloacae can last less than a second, but the sperm are transferred quickly during this "cloacal kiss" and the mating is complete.

Balancing may take longer as the birds continue to touch and several "kisses" can occur within moments. The birds will remain aroused by their hormones for a week or more and may mate multiple times during this period to increase the chances of successful insemination.

Some species of birds, notably several species of swans, geese, and ducks, do not have cloacas, but males do have a real phallus (penis) that is inserted into the female during mating. The penis is made up of an extension of the cloacal wall and, unlike mammals, is elevated by lymph rather than blood.

Having a penis helps different types of waterfowl to mate in the water without sperm leaving the exposed cloaca. Several other species of birds, including cassowaries, kiwis, and ostriches, also have penises instead of cloacas, but mating is still only a brief encounter.

After mating, the sperm travel to the eggs for fertilization. The eggs can be laid in a few days to several months before the eggs are ready to be laid and the final hatching begins.

If You See Mating Birds

Many bird watchers are delighted to see the unique behavior of the birds but are soon embarrassed or uncomfortable when they realize they are watching the birds having sex. Because the act of mating is so brief, being watched does not normally bother birds, but it is important to realize that it is still a delicate time for bird pairs.

If you see birds mating, it is best to keep your distance, as getting closer can scare the birds and force them to leave, which can disrupt courtship or damage the bond between them. It can also make it difficult to raise a litter or complete a successful mating if the pair separates prematurely.

If severely disturbed, the birds may leave their carefully chosen territory for a less suitable area that may not provide all of the food, shelter, and other survival needs of their chicks.

After the birds' mate, they can stay together to make their nests and create their young. This can provide a unique opportunity for bird watchers to observe a growing family of birds, but the same care must be taken to stay away from the nest to protect young birds.

Too much attention can upset the parents, forcing them to leave the nest or the chicks. Drawing attention to the nest can also attract predators, and bird watchers must be very careful not to disturb the nesting birds in any way.

Watching birds mate can be exciting and is a great reminder of how special spring birding can be. By understanding how birds reproduce, observers can better understand the unique behaviors they see in the field and can take steps to protect nesting birds and their young.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About How do birds mate?

Source: Ask About HEALTH

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