"Nesting Season": Can birds fall in love?
A new book explores the sexual chemistry of our feathered friends, from swans to "March of the Penguins"
By JED LIPINSKI
PUBLISHED MAY 16, 2010 7:01PM (UTC)
We have this idea that many birds, like swans, for example, are these ideals of monogamy. Is this true?
In most birds sex consists of a couple seconds of cloacal contact [the cloaca is an opening on both male and female birds' posteriors]. During the act itself, the female will hold her tail aside, and the male bird will sort of bend over backwards while balancing himself on her back. Some birds have penises -- like ducks, ostriches and ravens -- and other have an intermittent organ that acts like a penis, though it's embryologically derived from something else. For about 97 percent of the year, most birds are not having sex with each other. But again, with birds of paradise, if females keep arriving that window might be extended for months. And in the tropics, the breeding season is extended.