Ducks Do It

Two weeks ago I explained how birds manage to have sex. But somehow, there are always those species that make things more complicated. Last week’s explanation applied to 97% of bird species. But a few kinds of birds don’t follow the flock.

Take Cassowaries, for example. Both the male and female have what appears to be a penis attached to their cloacas, although the female’s is somewhat smaller than the male’s. It’s used during copulation, but it doesn’t channel sperm. Instead, after penetrating the female, the male expels his semen directly from his cloaca.

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Birds Do It

Birding is not for prudes. Everywhere I look, birds are busy making sure there will be another generation to carry on. It must be spring.

First it was the Cooper’s Hawks. We noticed two on recent trip to a county park. The larger one, the female, was sitting on a branch, preening. The smaller male zigzagged closer and closer as he flew from tree to tree, finally landing beside the female. There was a bit of a chase, some friendly bickering, and the next thing we knew, she had flipped up her tail, allowing him access. He was quick to hop on, and in a matter of a second or two, the deed was over. I hadn’t even had time to focus.

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Black Widows

widow_cottonwoodcyn-comanchenatlgrasslands-co_lah_6041The black spider crept across the basement floor, venom glistening from its deadly jaws. While the unsuspecting heroine rummaged through some boxes, the spider crept closer, and yet closer, until…

It’s a familiar scenario for a scary movie, but there isn’t much truth to the image of the malevolent black widow stalking its human prey. Yes, these spiders are venomous, and yes, they can bite us and do damage. But Black Widows really need a new image. They’re actually shy and retiring creatures who desperately want nothing to do with us humans.

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What Time Should I Expect You?

Mourning Dove_FCNC-CO_LAH_0385.nefWhen does migration bring new birds to Colorado? I’ve been pondering that question ever since I started birding. As a gardener with years of experience, I know when to plant each crop or flower. I know that 70° afternoons can be followed by 3° nights. Yes, April is like that—don’t be fooled.

But migration varies from species to species, and even sometimes from year to year. Instead of learning when to set out a dozen veggie varieties, I have to become familiar with the timing of hundreds of birds. For the most part, that’s still a huge mystery to me.

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