Bird Sex

Written By: sherridaley - • •

Zebra finches are about the size of my thumb and they’re very cute. They won’t mate unless they have a little covered nest that affords them privacy.  I think that’s proper. The males are quite helpful: not only do they do most of the nest-building (which in the case of caged birds amounts to “feathering” the nest with ripped-up newspaper), but they also sit on the eggs so that the females can go bowling, or whatever birds find to do in a birdcage.

I can watch them for hours, me with a glass of wine, them all peeping about, splashing in their birdbath, and yanking scraps of paper into their nests. They also sweetly nuzzle each other’s necks, ruffling feathers in gentle foreplay. I sometimes have more than one pair of birds and I have seen my share of eggs hatch.  Upon hatching, the babies look like boogers with hairs growing out of them. Not very pretty, but they grow up quickly, and it’s fun to watch the momma bird feed them. Birds are easy pets, and when I had too many birds in a cage, I’d take them down to the pet store for adoption.

I tried to keep an  even number of males and females, but I ended up with two females and a male.  Then, slowly, I noticed one female looking a little haggard.  Most of the feathers around her neck had been plucked out, probably in a sexual frenzy by the male, although  never saw him do it.  He looked completely innocent when I peered in at him, all hopping about and chirping.  The other female preened.

After a few more days, the haggard female was so weak, she couldn’t hop up onto a perch, and then, one morning, I found her lying on her side, dead. Sadly, I carried her outside to the yard and buried her under some leaves.  I figured it was probably not the worst way to die, making love until you expire. Or perhaps it was a crime of passion, the male AND the female killed her so they could be alone, and sure enough a few days later eggs appeared in the nest.

I watched happily as the little couple popped around collecting shredded paper and sharing the nesting duties.  When the babies were born, I was so excited.  I love watching those little hairy boogers grow into tiny feathered birds.

Then. One day. I came home from work and all babies had been thrown from the nest and lay in various states of dead at the bottom of the cage.  One lay floating in the birdbath.  “Crime of passion, my ass!” I shouted at them. “Baby killers!! You heinous little monsters!”  I opened the cage and snatched the two of them from their perch, shoved them in a brown paper shopping bag and stapled it shut. In a fury, I drove to the pet shop.

“I have to exchange these for some nice birds!” I told him, breathing hard. I told him all about the murders while the two birds beat their wings helplessly inside the brown paper bag.

And here is what I learned about bird sex.

1.)  The males can be easily distracted from the females with a little bit of brightly-colored straw.  They’ll peck at that for hours instead of their girlfriends, giving the girls a break. So I bought a tiny red & green broom of straw to tie inside the cage.

2.)  The females need a place to go to be alone, when they don’t feel like making love – other than the nest, obviously — so I put a branch of plastic leaves in the cage where they now occasionally hide.  Male birds are remarkably easy to hide from, apparently.

Eerily, it seems those two fact could apply to humans.

So this post is just to educate you on the intricacies of the lives of caged birds, if you ever thought life would be boring in a cage. Sex, rage, jealousy, murder, passion. Incest, for all I know. I can’t tell them apart once the babies are grown. I try to stay out of their personal lives.  Once the straw and the plastic leaves are in place, they’re on their own.




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