In the Spring, avian hearts turn to thoughts of love, or at least, to mating. Songs have been written about it. Cole Porter croons, “Birds do it, bees do it.” But have you ever thought about how birds “do it?”
Recently, I realized that a couple of white-winged doves, Zenaida asiatica, were getting together on the branch of a Palo Verde tree in my backyard. Watching the male trying to balance on the back of the female, who was receptive to the idea at least, in the gusty wind on a moving branch, got me thinking about the effort it takes for birds to mate.
It’s amazing that birds are able to perpetuate their species at all.
Mating takes place by the matching up of the cloacas. Keep in mind, the cloacas are located under the tails. So, along with the balancing act, they have to move their tails out of the way! Those tail feathers are stiff and can’t be bent. Just imagine having to maneuver the tails of a peacock or resplendent quetzal! Those tails are huge! Sure, they got the attention of the female, but just where do you put them during the cloacal matching? You can see why I’m impressed at the success rate of these interactions!
I knew a woman who wrote her Master’s degree thesis on aquatic birds’ ability to mate underwater! Wouldn’t the reproductive liquids be in danger of being diluted or washed away? The birds did fly, so it’s not like they couldn’t mate above water.
I encourage you to remember the effort it took for the ordinary birds flying about outside to be born and to congratulate them.
Book Note: I have written three fun-science books about birds. The book descriptions are here—perhaps you can find one for your child or grandchild.
Looking to supplement your child’s education in a fun way? Check out all my books here—there’s something for everyone, from preschoolers to chapter books to adults, like my book, Queen of the Night, the Night-blooming Cereus, an Amazon #1 book in Children’s Botany.