Ah yes, spring! it is a very sexy time with all the pollen and flirting and love in the air;
one of the questions that many people wonder about is how do birds make babies?
It's kind of crazy right? All this going on right outside our windows and we really don't know for sure.
Bird sex: to begin with, did you know that most male birds do not have a penis?
There are almost 10,000 species of birds and only around 3 percent of them have a penis. All of our male songbirds, eagles, hawks, gulls, cranes, owls, pigeons, hummingbirds and woodpeckers do not have a penis. Flamingos, penguins, and albatrosses have also completely lost their penises. Birds with penises include ducks, geese and swans, and large flightless birds like ostriches and emus. Male ducks are known to be the mating brutes of the bird world, but you can look that up yourself :^)
So how do birds "do it"?
Both male and female birds have what's known as a cloaca; the cloaca is a multipurpose internal chamber that ends in an opening used for discharging sperm or eggs and is also used for pooping. Pre-kiss flirting may include the male showing off his prowess with his sweet dance moves, singing repertoire, feather displays, and gifts of food or bright tokens; if the female is receptive she shifts her tail feathers to the side and the male bird swoops in for a swift tail-to-tail flutter move and their swollen cloaca bump together. If you have ever been lucky enough to witness the cloacal kiss, you know that it happens fast and if you blink you will miss it.
I had the wonderful opportunity to be at the Woodland Park Zoo Williwong Station one spring day and witnessed dozens of Cockatiels and Budgerigar parakeets flirting and engaging in cloacal kissing, much to the delight of the 9th grade students I was chaperoning. In addition, I have had the pleasure of catching some of our backyard songbirds doing this little booty bump. I even had seriously depressed Alaskan parakeets, that I was bird-sitting, get their groove on after I treated them to full spectrum lights, music, and humidity; they were not only rigorous booty bumpers, but good parents too. Anyway, this year we had lots of chickadee action in our backyard and the result is that we have a birdhouse full of tiny chickadees. YAY.
Kristen Martyn, from Wild Birds Unlimited reported that "Research by Doug Tallajmy (entomologist at the University of Delaware) found that one pair of chickadees delivered food once every 3 minutes to their nest. Estimating that they forage during the hours of 6 am- 8 pm (entirely realistic during nesting season) means they make approximately 390-570 trips with insects to the nest each day. Hatchlings are in the nest for approximately 14-18 days. This number does not include the insects required once the young ones fledge, but are still cared for by their parents for another 1-2 weeks." That is a lot of worms, bugs, berries, and seeds! No wonder the parent birds are looking raggedy.
I am guessing that our nestlings are almost two weeks old, as we can see their tiny black heads as they peek out of the birdhouse. They will be fledging soon. If you have a cat that is free-roaming, this is the time of year when it is CRITICAL to keep your cats inside. THANK YOU.
Chickadees like a 65% shaded house with an unobstructed flight path to the entrance.