..how are babies made?
Let me tell ya 'bout the birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees
And the moon up above
And a thing called Love
If you don't remember that old song, don't tell me. I'll only start feeling older than I really am. *laugh*
Seriously though, I would like to discuss finch sex. I seem to get asked about how finches mate and what parts of their anatomy are actually called. Sometimes I think most of the people who ask me about finch sex are nothing more than silly kids trying to stir up trouble. I'm sure to their disappointment I always answer in simple an honest terms.
If you have young kids reading over your shoulder right now and don't think they are ready for this, you may want to distract them to some other activity.
Finches don't have the same parts other animals and we humans do. Let's face it, a penis would really hinder the whole aerodynamic physique of a male finch. Finches were made to fly, to do this most everything on the outside of the body needs to create as little resistance to flight as possible.
Finches, all birds really, have basically matching external sex organs called Cloacas. The Cloaca is nothing more than an opening in the body under the tail. As a matter of fact they have only one small opening under their body and it gets used for everything from mating to pooping. If you don't already know this I'll tell you - birds don't 'pee'. All their waste comes out as once so the runny part of the bird dropping is as close to pee as you'll ever see.
All finches have different courtship rituals that lead to mating. Some birds are very elaborate and fanciful in their displays while others sing a quick tune and jump together.
Now if you were to hold a bit is grass in your mouth, toss your head back and jump up and done while singing - not only would people question your sanity but you just may draw the attention of a female Blue Cap Cordon Bleu. Then again, maybe not. Of all the finches in my aviary they seem to have the more elaborate display and the male does this quite often. If he'd do it when I had the camera ready I'd insert a photo here.
Other species sing while flittering their fanned out tail. My little Zebra Finch friends prefer to puff out the feathers, point the tail towards the female and sing. If the female is standing on the ground: some of my more active males hop around the female in one direction, then in another direction while singing. They always keep the tail pointed towards the female.
If she's impressed with his song, or simply trying to shut him up (I haven't figured that one out yet), she'll tilt her whole body so her tail is slightly up in the air, fan and vibrate her tail while cooing. This drives the males wild and he will not hesitate to embrace her acceptance of him.
So, how do they do it you ask. For finches it's a great deal of work. Their Cloacas must touch and contact needs to be sustained for as long as possible to ensure the female gets the sperm. The female finch's tail is raised and she clutches the perch with all of her strength. As the male bring his body to hers their tails cross and the female's gets pushed one side or the other while the male's ends up under the female or just below her. The male must flap his wings as though he were hovering to keep the pair together.
They form a loose side ways T shape with the female mostly horizontal and hanging on to the perch, while the male is vertical and hovering in place. The whole encounter only takes a second and it's over. Your finches could have mated several times by the time you read all that. :)
Fertilization of the egg takes place inside the females? body long before the egg is fully formed. Even after successful coupling not all eggs laid may be fertile. In some species of finches, the female can store sperm until she's ready to lay her clutch. If you buy a pair of finches and they start laying fertile eggs right away there is a good chance the male you bought isn't the father.
Parrots and larger birds don't hover over their mates. That would be too difficult for a heavier bird. If you want to see how the big birds play I suggest you go to Land of Vos Eclectus and view the amazing photos Carolyn has of her Eclectus mating. http://www.landofvos.com/mating/mating.html
Some male finches have been known to mount other male finches. Sometimes they aren't even from the same species. No your finches aren't gay. It's also a form of dominance over another male finch. They don't connect to mate; they simply want to be literally 'on top'.
Interspecies mating does and can occur. I strongly will ask you never to encourage this to happen with your finches. When two different species come together to breed, if any fertile eggs are laid, and if any of the young hatch, they are often sterile. While I'm sure they may be an oddity to look at, and in some places a novelty, it's not healthy for the species.
If you have two finches and don't want them to breed, don't encourage them. Remove the nest and all nesting material from the cage. Finches don't need to sleep in nests even though they will. Females will continue to lay eggs. Removing the male won't stop this either. They really don't need the male to do anything for the egg making process other than donate sperm so the egg has a chance to be fertile.
On a side note: Male finches are called Cocks and females are called Hens. I didn't use those two terms throughout this article because some people do find the terms offensive. Personally I have no problem with the words and often when talking about males and females I'll slip up and the word cock gets out before I can catch myself. Thankfully when I'm talking to others in person no one has given me too a hard time about it. :)
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