Bird Reproduction


by Bernie Keating

• Punching up Wikipedia since 1885 •

ALTHOUGH MOST MALE BIRDS have no external sex organs (except for the spare they keep in their wallets "just in case"), the male does have two testes which become hundreds of times larger during the breeding season.  (To hear them tell it . . . .)

To their chagrin, the testes in male birds are generally asymmetric with most birds having a larger left testis. These birds are called "tefties" by some of their crueler classmates. 

The female's ovaries also become larger so as not to embarrass their male counterparts, although only the left ovary functions — bringing to mind that old adage, "Never let the left ovary know what the right ovary is doing."   However, if the left ovary is damaged by infection or other problems (such as self-esteem, vapor lock, or even simple math), the right ovary will try to "function" or "scramble for a promotion."

In the males of those species without a phallus (who understandably wish to remain anonymous), sperm is stored in the semenal glomera (literally, "the Native American with glaucoma"), within the cloacal. And if you don’t have time for the cloacal, by all means, take the express. 

During copulation, the female moves her tail to the side and the male either mounts the female from behind, or in front, or in an "anyway he can get it" fashion. The cloacae then touch, so that the sperm can enter the female after exchanging a sly wink with the doorman. This unseemly activity can happen very fast, sometimes in less than half a second — i.e., fast for her, endless for him.

The sperm is stored in the female's sperm storage tubules for a week to a year, depending on the species and the storage facility’s policies and availability. Then, eggs will be fertilized individually — single file  to prevent excessive shoving — as they leave the ovaries, before being laid by the female, who clearly lost the coin toss. The eggs continue their development outside the female body, typically at a good solid trade school or a local community college with a top notch arts and literature department.

Many waterfowl possess a phallus, frequently with a rent-to-own option.   When not copulating, the phallus or fowlus is hidden within the proctodeum  (translation: "the root cellar" or "the ol' front porch"), just inside the vent within the cloaca. This is where the phallus and the cloaca can then watch the floorshow with a sturdy pair of binoculars and no worries about feeling cheap.

After the eggs hatch (or "hatch"), parents provide varying degrees of care in terms of food, warmth, protection, bedtime stories, regular doctors’ visits, bouncy castles, school uniforms and the like. 

Precocial birds can care for themselves independently within minutes of hatching. They are largely Ivy League material, type-A pillars of the community who eventually regret that they never had a real childhood.

Altricial hatchlings are helpless, blind, and naked, requiring extended and largely thankless parental care. These altricial chicks then tend to grow up to be "problem birds" who hang out at the local 7-11 begging for change and flaunting authority.

The chicks of many ground-nesting birds such as (oh, I don't like to name names but. . . ) partridges and waders are often able to run immediately after hatching, hopping on the backs of motorcycles with virtual strangers and never a card at Christmas. Such birds are referred to as "nidifugous," typically with a sneer.

Some birds, such as pigeons, geese, and red-crowned cranes, remain with their mates for life and may produce offspring on a regular basis. Their smugness about this is barely tolerated by birds and bird lovers alike.

On the other hand, the young of hole-nesters (their word, not mine) are often totally incapable of unassisted survival. Can you stand it? The process whereby a chick acquires feathers, whether by catalog or an illegal online download, is called "fledging." Thus, proving once again the hypothesis that name-calling still runs rampant in this, the wonderful world of birds.

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