Spring is the breeding season for most birds, but how do birds mate? Coming together in sexual copulation is essential to fertilize eggs to raise young birds, but the sex act is only a brief part of the courtship and pair bonds between birds.
The courtship period is when a male bird shows off his health and strength to convince a female that he is her best possible mate and will help her create the strongest, healthiest chicks with the best chance to survive. Birds will remain excited by their hormones for a week or more and may mate several times during that period to increase the chances of successful insemination.
How do birds reproduce sexually?
During mating, a male bird presses his cloaca against his mate’s cloaca and passes sperm from his cloaca to hers. After fertilization, eggs pass out of the female’s body, exiting through the opening in the cloaca.
Do birds have penises?
Most birds don’t have such bragging rights, however: Males in 97 percent of bird species have tiny penises or lack them entirely. Instead, they shoot sperm into a female bird’s body through an exit called a cloaca. The absent bird penis is a head-scratcher for scientists who study animal reproduction.
For humans to understand bird sex, they must first throw out all thoughts of mammalian sex organs. Unlike mammals, most male birds don’t have penises. Instead, both male and female birds have what’s known as a cloaca.
Certain domesticated birds like chickens and ducks regularly lay eggs without receiving sperm from the male – the eggs we buy in the grocery stores are unfertilized eggs.
The fertilized ovum forms the nucleus of the egg, which will be
equipped with a food source (the yolk) and a protective shell before laying. As yet another adaptation for lightness, the male’s testes only
enlarge when producing sperm; then they become several hundred times the normal
Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. But hang on a minute, exactly how do birds mate? Well, most birds do things a bit differently from us humans. In most songbirds, even the equipment is different and uniquely adapted to the needs of the species. Like everything in nature, its fascinating stuff. Lets take a closer look.
Once breeding is done, the cloaca and other reproductive organs shrink to minimise weight for flying and migration. Bird courtship may be fascinating with brilliant plumage, beautiful songs and impressive dances.
The balancing act is tricky, and it may last a while so that the birds can have more than one cloacal kiss, increasing the chances of insemination. Once insemination has happened, the female may start producing eggs in a couple of days. Because of the need to ensure insemination birds will mate several times, with different partners during the season.
So when the females body clock tells her the time is right to start producing eggs, she may well have sperm from several different partners inside her. So experts say that birds bond socially rather than sexually its a feathered open relationship. When you think that on dry land, a cloacal kiss only gets 1-2% of sperm into the female, you can imagine how low the success rate would be on the water.
So, nature gave male ducks, swans and most water birds a penis.
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 the vent) serves as the bodily exit for their digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. This means the same opening that excretes feces and urine is the opening from which eggs are laid. During the breeding season, the cloaca swells and may protrude slightly outside the body, while during the rest of the year it is much less prominent and not typically visible.When birds are ready to breed, their reproductive organs, the testes and ovaries, swell and produce the sperm and ova. Male birds store sperm in their cloaca until an opportunity to mate arises, and females will receive that sperm into their cloaca before it travels deeper into their bodies to fertilize their ova and begin egg formation.
The courtship between a pair of birds can last much longer than the actual act of copulation. Courtship behavior may include several stages, from initially claiming territory to actually wooing a prospective mate with visual and auditory displays such as stunning plumage, spectacular flights, intricate songs, or even elaborate dances. The courtship period is when a male bird shows off his health and strength to convince a female that he is her best possible mate and will help her create the strongest, healthiest chicks with the best chance to survive.
How Birds Have Sex
Once a female bird is receptive to a mate, whether it is a new mate every breeding season or simply renewing ties with a life-long partner, the actual mating can take place. The positions and postures birds assume to mate can vary, but the most common is for the male bird to balance on top of the female. The female may hunch, lay down, or bow to give the male easier balance, and both birds face the same direction. She will then move her tail aside to expose her cloaca to his reach, and he will arch or curl his body so his cloaca can touch hers. The brief rubbing of cloacas may last less than a second, but the sperm is transferred quickly during this “cloacal kiss” and the mating is complete. The balancing may take longer as the birds stay touching one another, and several “kisses” might occur within a few moments. Birds will remain excited by their hormones for a week or more and may mate several times during that period to increase the chances of successful insemination.Some bird species, most notably several species of swans, geese, and ducks, do not have cloacas, but instead male birds have an actual phallus (penis) that is inserted into the female during mating. The penis is formed by an extension of the cloacal wall, and unlike mammals, is erected by lymph rather than blood. Having a penis helps different types of waterfowl mate in the water without the sperm washing away from an exposed cloaca. Several other bird species, including cassowaries, kiwis, and ostriches, also have penises rather than cloacas, but the mating act is still only a brief encounter.After mating, the sperm travels to the ova for fertilization. Eggs may be laid in just a few days or it may be several months before eggs are ready to be laid and the final brooding of the nest begins.
How Do Birds Mate?
Most birds mate by a cloacal kiss. Male birds do not have a penis. Both male and female have an avian vent or cloaca. They mate by briefly touching cloacas so sperm can pass from male to female. Ducks, swans and most waterbirds do have penises and mate through penetration.wild
First of all, most birds are made differently to mammals. Males do not have penises, and from the outside male and female birds” sexual equipment looks the same.Both male and female birds have a cloaca or avian vent. This is an opening just below the tail which lets sperm, eggs, faeces and urine out. And in the case of the female, lets sperm in.Inside the body, males have testicles, and females have just one ovary.Birds’ reproductive organs change during the year. As seasonal temperatures, light levels and food availability signal the start of the mating season the cloaca swells and expands.Once breeding is done, the cloaca and other reproductive organs shrink to minimise weight for flying and migration.
The Act of Mating
Bird courtship may be fascinating with brilliant plumage, beautiful songs and impressive dances. But the sex act itself for birds is nothing to get excited about.Male birds have no penis, so there is no penetration. Birds mate with what is known as a cloacal kiss.The male mounts the female from behind, balancing on her back. She arches her back and moves her tail to one side. He hunches over, and their cloacas touch for just a second. During this brief touch, the male releases sperm which enters the female.The balancing act is tricky, and it may last a while so that the birds can have more than one cloacal kiss, increasing the chances of insemination. Scientists believe that just 1-2% of the sperm ejaculated makes it into the female. So, quite a few kisses are probably needed.Once insemination has happened, the female may start producing eggs in a couple of days. Or it maybe months. She is capable of holding on to sperm within her body until the conditions are right for nesting.Although some males will leave straight after the sex act and have nothing to do with nesting and raising chicks, most of our songbirds to nest and rear as a family.
So Are Birds Exclusive?
Many birds do pair up for one mating season, for a year or life.But this may not mean they are sexually exclusive.Because of the need to ensure insemination birds will mate several times, with different partners during the season.So when the female’s body clock tells her the time is right to start producing eggs, she may well have sperm from several different partners inside her. So the eggs she lays may have several different fathers.It gets better. Because birds of the same species build nests that look quite similar, it’s not uncommon for a female to lay her eggs in more than one nest.The result is that two birds may raise some chicks that aren’t biologically related to one or both of them.But this doesn’t cause any drama or rejection of the “step chicks”.So experts say that birds bond socially rather than sexually – it’s a feathered “open relationship.”
Ducks Do it Differently.
When you think that on dry land, a cloacal kiss only gets 1-2% of sperm into the female, you can imagine how low the success rate would be on the water.So, nature gave male ducks, swans and most water birds a penis.This is an extension of the cloacal wall which becomes erect for mating.Mating happens on the water. The male climbs on top of the female and holds her under the water briefly as he penetrates and inseminates her.It’s a much more practical method for water birds.
Give Us Some Privacy Please!
If you spot birds mating, you are sure to want to stay and watch. This is fine. They are going to be too occupied during the act to take much notice of you.But please be sure to keep quiet and keep your distance.You don’t want to interrupt them in the act. And more importantly, birds often nest near where they mate. When nesting, they are very alert to potential dangers around them. If you disturb them, you may cause them to abandon a suitable nesting site. This could mean their brood will fail. It could also mean you miss out on seeing the chicks later in the year.