Parrots flock to Amsterdam for kinky sex
It’s a little surprising to see ring-necked green parrots courting and screwing in public on a cool, gray day in Amsterdam.
Aside from the northern latitude, however, they’re just doing what comes naturally in the big Vondelpark in the south central part of the Dutch city.
It’s tamely kinky by mammalian standards. Male parrots, like most birds, do the deed without penises. At mating time, the males and females rub together their swollen cloacas — the all-purpose poop-and-sex orifices under their tails.
Last year I was honored to photograph a session of parrot courtship and frottage occurring high in a tree in Vondelpark. Please understand that I didn’t expect to document this seldom-seen rite I had wondered about since childhood, when I had budgies. That morning I was merely testing a new telephoto lens equipped with precise technology that overcomes most blurring from a photographers’ sweaty, quaking hands.
The male ringneck parrot’s polite seduction begins with hesitant glances and a dance familiar to observers of caged budgies: He repeatedly approaches and retreats from the female along a branch, madly bobbing his head and attempting to build consensus for what may soon occur. I suspect he was also cooing.
If all signals are go, he climbs atop the female, she arches her back and somehow moves her tail out of the way. A very brief frenzy of rubbing ensues. What appears to be his climactic exultation actually may be a desperate attempt to stay aboard.
See my sequence of pictures below.
To withhold consent, a female need only fly away or toss the male off her back. Her shoulderless back makes a precarious perch, requiring the male to spread his wings to keep balance. Then he edges away, deflated and needing reassurance.
Readers sympathetic with these playful, raucous Southern Hemisphere birds may wonder how they can survive outdoors in northern Europe.
It’s not so hard, apparently, in European regions moderated by Atlantic Ocean currents. Amsterdam’s average low temperatures stay above 40° F eight months a year, and above freezing all year. London’s lows are even milder.
I’ve seen parrot settlements in the moderate climates of Barcelona as well as San Francisco, and an ocean-side colony in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which probably collapsed years ago during a bitter winter.
Europe is home for some 85,000 wild parrots, including 32,000 in the U.K. (2012 estimate). Ring-necked parrots from India, green-bodied and red-billed, have earned a reputation as invasive crop-eating pests in Europe, Turkey and Israel. In Australia they have become invasive pests that, what’s worse, compete with native breeds of pest parrots.
A European study group called ParrotNet monitors “invasive” wild parrots’ activity in Europe. A “heatmap,” at left, shows parrot hotspots in the Netherlands as of 2015.
Meanwhile in Britain and the eastern U.S., authorities are cracking down on wild quaker parrots (a.k.a. monk parakeets) from South America. The birds’ big, baggy communal nests on power poles are blamed for electrical outages.
The New York area has an estimated 550 of the gray-faced, green-body quakers. And the San Francisco area has some 300 red-masked green parakeets descended from the colony made famous by the 2004 documentary “The Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”
Now we get around to the kinky reveal, involving those other bird species that are equipped to fornicate more like people do. Nature gives penises to the male of only a few avian species — among them, ducks, swans, ostriches and relatives.
The consequences for Daisy Duck are not always pretty — nothing like the parrots’ polite courtship I saw in Amsterdam.
I’ve seen crowds of male ducks gang-banging a beleaguered female in a municipal pond — even in Canada. And I’d expect intemperate male geese to be even more overbearing to females. (Of course, who knows whether what’s good for the gander nevertheless feels good to the goose?)
As with mammals, the duck organ seems ready-made for abusive, unwelcome penetration. It’s far kinkier than its human counterpart.
Here’s a YouTube video showing the explosive engorgement of a male duck’s twisty weeny. Trigger warning: Impressionable females intending to maintain a heterosexual orientation should consider avoiding this video!
Evolution meanwhile has empowered some breeds of female ducks with means for resistance. Their corkscrew vaginas twist in the opposite direction of the males’ spiraling willies! — unless the female feels adequately frisky and relaxes her equipment.
The long view, says a Yale researcher, is that this female genitalia co-evolved with the kinky penises in an ongoing arms race “between the sexes over who is going to control fertilization.”
Species photo credits: Ring-necked or rose-ringed parakeet by J.M.Garg for Wikimedia Commons; Monk parakeet by Cláudio Dias Timm for Wikimedia Commons; and Red-masked parakeet by Mark Bittner.