Bird Sex: Mostly monogamous

Observing two black vultures touching beaks and acting all lovey-dovey on my back deck recently, I came to ponder on sex among avian creatures. It is an interesting topic.

Some ten percent of all birds are monogamous, having only one mate. However, like their human counterparts, some birds do fool around.

Swans and albatrosses display a high level of fidelity and often form lifetime bonds. However, many songbirds have a new mate every year.

Also, when it comes to sex, most birds do not go in for long-term love-making and copulation is usually a very perfunctory act. The male presses briefly against the female and in a matter of seconds, releases a few hundred million sperms. It’s fast, but generally efficient. However, gymnastic though they might be, birds do not have sex in flight.

The female spotted sandpiper is among the more polygymous birds and will lay up to four clutches of eggs during a breeding season, often having a different mate for each clutch.

All in all, birds “divorce” at about a five percent rate; very respectable for any species. And probably better than most film stars in Hollywood. Elizabeth Taylor was married eight times to seven men.

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