Unusual friskiness


Richard Bradus
 

Hi all

I spent some of the noon hour today at Simonds Loop and witnessed some behavior I've not seen or been aware of before.

A CA Towhee called a few times before becoming visible through a hedge, looking about carefully with a beak full of grassy nesting material. To my surprise, another flew in, displayed briefly and then proceeded to copulate with the first. Another display-copulation commenced less than a minute later. The (presumed) male then flew off and the female - with nesting material still in her beak - flew off in the same direction about half a minute later, likely toward the nest site (but I was unable to follow).

This simultaneous rearing/mating behavior is something I've never seen before in this, or any other, avian species. Has this been described or documented by others? Oddly timed and a bit excessive to me, but maybe I'm just getting old.

Though summer is quickly approaching, it seems the rites of spring remain powerful.

Richard Bradus
San Francisco


 

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the illustrative report! 

Frequent copulation seems like a generalized behavior in songbirds and will sometimes overlap with carrying nesting material. Ah! The sweet ardor of newlyweds trying to have a baby. Think house chores tossed aside and dining room cleared for a midday romp by a happy pair of newlyweds for a human behavioral comparison!

I observed something similar on my street a couple of days ago except involving the local nesting pair of Nuttall’s White-crowned  sparrows. The female solicited copulation with the universal —tail up , cloaca out , wings wagging — behavior that tells the male come and get it daddy, while holding a stalk of grass that she then promptly disappeared with into a juniper in front of my neighbors house. Nearby was a pair recently fledged juveniles (5/28 first day out); this same pair produced their first brood in early April.

Like Nuttall’s white crowns, our resident California Towhees start nesting early, nest building is often well under way before the “official” 3/20 start of spring marked by the equinox, and will attempt to double and triple clutch sometimes weeks after the summer solstice. I recall seeing new white-crowns, towhees et all fresh from the nest well into august some years. I think it’s all based on overall productivity of the plant/insect communities in a given area.

With the pleasant return of thick morning fog in the sunset so far this year in contrast to the non-stop sunny days in the last several summers past maybe we can anticipate good production of juvenile birds in the fog belt in 2022.

Dominik 


On Jun 3, 2022, at 07:21, dominikmosur@... wrote:

Sounds like typical behavior for emberizids.

Regarding timing, non-migratory nesters around here like cal towhee , white crown etc are putting out 2nd broods and getting ready for thirds it sounds like   (just saw a fledged pair of juvie white crowns on my block, about 7 weeks after they put out a first) 


On Jun 2, 2022, at 22:24, Richard Bradus via groups.io <grizzledjay@...> wrote:


Hi all

I spent some of the noon hour today at Simonds Loop and witnessed some behavior I've not seen or been aware of before.

A CA Towhee called a few times before becoming visible through a hedge, looking about carefully with a beak full of grassy nesting material. To my surprise, another flew in, displayed briefly and then proceeded to copulate with the first. Another display-copulation commenced less than a minute later. The (presumed) male then flew off and the female - with nesting material still in her beak - flew off in the same direction about half a minute later, likely toward the nest site (but I was unable to follow).

This simultaneous rearing/mating behavior is something I've never seen before in this, or any other, avian species. Has this been described or documented by others? Oddly timed and a bit excessive to me, but maybe I'm just getting old.

Though summer is quickly approaching, it seems the rites of spring remain powerful.

Richard Bradus
San Francisco