There are over 18,000 bird species in the world. The smallest bird in the world a hummingbird, while the largest is an ostrich – a very large size difference. Each species is vastly different in many ways, but there is one thing all birds have in common. They lay their eggs in spring. Now you ask yourself, as I did, why do birds lay their eggs in the springtime
Birds lay their eggs in the spring because Spring offers the food sources the birds need for the length of time it takes to lay, hatch, and parent their offspring before the winter months come.
The mating season for most bird species starts in the spring after they migrate back to the place where they were born. Cues from seasonal changes trigger the bird’s hormones allowing them to mate. Birds migrate for food.
If birds only stayed in warm tropical areas, as I think they should, their food would no longer be plentiful as the large number of birds living in these small areas would deplete the food resources quickly. Migration helps ensure food sources have time to replenish for the bird’s return next season.
Birds have a unique reproductive system that only allows them to mate after hormonal changes that start in early spring. Most species of birds are unable to mate outside of the spring mating season. Birds only mate for procreation, not for pleasure as other species do.
It is the males that are sterile during the offseason, while females may also produce fewer eggs due to available food sources and less calcium for egg creation.
Birds were given these reproductive limitations to give chicks the best chance of survival. It all comes down to when the most food is available for their offspring. Nature doesn’t want birds mating and using their energy in the winter when the season is not long enough to properly raise and parent their offspring.
Male and female birds will immediately start searching for a nesting spot when they migrate back to the place where they hatched. Male birds will start courting females, and it is the female who gets to choose who she will mate with. Most female birds have simple coloring and often have very little in the way of special markings, while males will have beautiful feathers and singing voices to help them capture the attention of a female.
Birds have a few common courtship procedures, including:
- Showing off bright plumage
- Practiced flight paths
Males show off for the females and have to prove they are a strong mate before being chosen. If a brighter colored male comes along, a female in many bird species will move on to the new mate to give her eggs the best chance of survival by choosing traits in a male they wish to continue n their offspring.
There are some bird species like the Lovebirds that will only hate with one partner their entire lives. Native to Africa and living in some parts of North America, the Lovebirds mate for life as an important character trait that helps ensure social stability in their flocks. The Lovebirds stick together because they need support from their mates to help incubate and raise their 5 to 12 chicks.
Nests are a safe place for females to lay their eggs and one of the most important first steps in the mating ritual. Each bird species will have its own variation of a nest for its eggs that have developed over the years to ensure the safety of the eggs and hatchlings. Birds will use what is available to build their nests like grass, dirt, and leaves. But, birds will also take fur from other animals or use available garbage if it will work in the construction of their nest.
There are some species of birds that don’t use nests at all and have found the best way to lay eggs is in burrows, tree holes, and even scrapes in the ground.
Different species will lay different amounts of eggs called a clutch. A pet finch will often lay only one egg at a time, while tropical birds like lovebirds and budgies will have a clutch of 4 to 6. Different species of ducks will commonly lay 6 to 15 eggs at one time.
Birds use calcium to create the shell of the egg. It takes an average of 24 hours to ovulate and coat the egg in protective calcium. Once a bird lays her eggs, incubation starts. Each species is different in the length of time the egg is incubated.
Some birds start incubating when the first egg comes out, while other species wait until all eggs are all in the nest before incubation. The length of incubation time determines when an egg will hatch, meaning some species will have eggs that hatch the same day while others will have their eggs hatch on different days.
How to Care For Pet Birds Laying Eggs
Laying eggs is natural for birds. In the wild, a female bird will wait for a nest and a mate to lay her eggs; however, in captivity, female birds will produce eggs continuously as they don’t have the same environmental triggers to help them. The production of eggs can be stressful on a pet bird and deplete calcium stores, causing malnutrition and osteoporosis.
A female pet bird will start laying eggs when she reaches sexual maturity and often lays eggs in spring following similar patterns of the wild birds they originate from. Pet birds take cues from the length of the day and the surge in hormones that start in spring to understand when the mating season has started. When their hormones kick in as longer days start, birds naturally produce eggs for reproduction purposes.
While you cannot spay a bird the same way you can your dog or cat, there are a few things you can do to slow down the egg process.
- Shorten the day for your bird by putting them to be early
- Avoid bonding your bird
- An unbonded bird may show mating signals to its owner; the owner should not reciprocate
- A bird may have a toy it shows mating signs to; these toys should be removed
- Use the right food to keep calcium and nutrients up
- Ask a vet about hormonal injections
- Leave the egg in the nest, if a bird is laying excessively
The history of birds
With over 18,000 species, there are many different types of birds. Experts say there are between 23 to 40 different bird species. Some birds can fly while others, like the penguin, are flightless and can swim. All birds have feathers made from keratin, the same stuff that makes human hair and nails. Feathers were likely originated for the need for heat regulation but later adapted for flight.
Thomas Henry Huxley studied the skeletons of birds and dinosaurs and concluded that birds are related to bipedal dinosaurs, which were dinosaurs who stood on two feet like the tyrannosaurus rex. Both birds and dinosaurs have three toes, and later Chris Organ studied the DNA of dinosaurs and related birds more closely to therapod dinosaurs, which are classified as dinosaurs who stand on two legs and have three toes. The closest relation to the dinosaur is a chicken.
Climate Change Effects on Bird Mating
Climate change is having a direct effect on birds and changing their mating patterns. Many birds have to choose between the need to cool off or the need to mate. Because of the higher temperatures, many birds are migrating to new locations. The problem with a new location is it affects the species already living in this area, depletes the food sources, and causes confusion in mating between species.
Scientists believe birds will start migrating towards colder climates where they have a better chance of survival and upward in elevation where it is cooler. Another important factor for many North American bird species is the increase in wildfires due to climate change.
Because of the warmer, drier weather, increased wildfires are devastating local habitat and creating food scarcity and a loss in the habitat that will displace birds. While birds can move, there will be greater competition for resources between species and confusion in mating times and patterns with displacement. This is a major concern in the tropics, where many species have a restricted available range.