Monday, November 9, 2009

The Birds & the Bees, if You Please …

Birds do it, Bees do it, Even educated fleas do it, let's do it, let's fall in love… Sorry, this is only about birds.

The photo is of Budgies doing it, not unlike other varieties of parakeet. Bourke and Splendid cocks attract a hen by calling to them. Bourkes have a lovely song that includes a natural wolf whistle. Splendid calls are not as pretty, but seem to get the job done.

Once the lady enters his area, a male attempts to woo her by trying to feed her. If she is attracted to him, she will allow this. The quality of the regurgitated food probably proves what competent fathers they can be. A hen may wait a few days to get to know the gent, or she may decide she’s ready immediately.

Hens signal a willingness to mate by hunching down and raising their tails in the air. They also cheep loudly, issuing their “come on big boy!” call. During the mating process they often continue their encouraging cheeping. But not always…maybe it depends on his expertise.

Males tentatively place a foot on the back of the female. When they think she’s standing steady enough they will step up onto her back. They usually extend their wings for balance. Experienced males don’t have to dance back and forth, but inexperienced ones may wobble before proceeding. Sometimes the hen is knocked off her perch and may scold as she falls. To successfully mate, the male must lean to one side of the female and fold his tail under hers – all while keeping two feet securely on her back…a real balancing act for them both.

The male bird attempts to touch his vent area to hers. He doesn’t have a penis, but both birds seem to enjoy vent to vent contact as his sperm enters her. It’s all over in a matter of seconds and he hops off. It’s referred to as the “cloacal kiss.” If contact was made, she will sit still for a moment or two afterwards.

Some scientists believe that birds are descended from dinosaurs. Try to conjure up an image of two Tyrannosauruses based on the foregoing information. Tee Hee!

It’s assumed that the reason birds lay eggs is so that the babies can develop outside the hen, allowing her to fly without carrying the extra weight. That’s also an argument for why cocks carry their sexual organs inside; although there can be some swelling during mating season, allowing sperm to be farther from the body and kept cooler. If you’re interested in more details, there’s more information on the internet.


SPLENDIDS: Young Splendid parakeets all look alike. The scarlet chest develops on the males as they mature, and the timing of this varies. I had a young clutch of three all get scarlet chests before another male who was hatched a few months earlier. So, it can vary. However, sometimes sex can be determined by looking under their wings. Males tend to have a black band beneath their wings, whereas, females have white bands. If the bands are broken, you may have to wait and see whether the white bands fill in or disappear.

BOURKES: Bourke parakeets are harder to sex. Yet, males often display at an early age. They throw their shoulders back and slightly flair their wings. I’ve never seen a female do this. It’s a male display activity. Females tend to have darker faces than the males, and supposedly the top of their head is flatter. However, good luck with either of those methods. Pink and Rosy Bourke colorations vary widely. Normal Bourke males will develop a tiny ridge of blue feathers above their cere (nostrils). If you look closely at a mature bird, this will be present in the males and absent in females.

Rosy Bourke colorations are sex linked. Because of that, if you have a mixed pair (a Rosy and a Normal brown); you will know what sexes you have as soon as pin feathers begin to show on the babies. Their offspring will typically be the color of the parent of the opposite sex. So a Rosy father will have Rosy daughters. The Normal hen will produce Normal sons. The opposite is true too. A Rosy hen will have Rosy sons and a Normal cock with have Normal daughters.

I have one pair of Normals who actually produce 50% Rosies. The male in the pair had a Rosy father, so he is a split Normal. All the Rosies have been daughters and all the Normals have been males. If you want to learn more about this, you can search for Homozygous and Heterozygous traits in birds.

An interesting website, Visual Wings, describes a number of Australian parakeets. It’s at:

By the way, Fuchsia is doing fine and eating on her own now. Her mother is back on eggs, so to protect those offspring, I expect to pull them within a week of their hatch and hand feed them. As I mentioned earlier one of the parents (unsure which one) killed Fuchsia’s younger sibling and injured Fuchsia’s wing. The parents are in a cage of their own, so another bird didn’t do this. I suspect it was the father, but he successfully raised three babies with another hen (who scolded him constantly, maybe to protect her babies). All our other pairs have proven themselves to be reliable parents and I believe this is very unusual.

Until next time. Enjoy your birds.


neversink7 said...

thanks for posting regarding the white band under the splendid's wings as a way to tell the gender. no one else seem to talk about this although this has turned out quite reliable for me.

The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog said...

Happy to hear it. Thanks for the post!