Birds and Love
The days are finally starting to get longer. Birds and other animals react to these changes in the amount of daylight in a process called photoperiodism. You may notice more birds singing as a response to the increasing daylight. Yet birds aren’t singing for your enjoyment, and they aren’t singing because they are happy. In the Spring, nesting birds are mainly singing to attract a mate and to defend their territory. What sounds beautiful to us translates in bird language to something like this: “Hey! This is my tree! Get lost!” Or even this, “Ladies, check me out. My bright feathers indicate how good I am at finding nutritious food. Sing louder so we can make a nest together and have a good meal.”
But what is most fascinating is a photoperiodism response that affects male birds in the Spring. A switch in their brain that triggers the hormones necessary for reproduction is triggered as the daylight increases, and their gonads increase in size. Male birds have a short window in which they have functioning gonads. This is significant for two reasons. Unlike mammals who produce milk, birds have to feed their young with a seasonal food source. This limits their reproductive period. Secondly, birds fly. If they are carrying the extra weight of unused gonads, that would be detrimental to survival. Male birds don’t have the luxury of time. They can’t even bring a carry-on! So once the brief mating season is over, the gonads “shrink” and become dormant until the next mating season. Dating shows for birds would be a hoot! Tell us your best titles for a bird dating show?