How Parrots Mate

Mating ringnecks form my.opera.com

Q: I only have one bird, a green cheeked conure. I woke up this morning and there was an egg in the cage. How is this possible? When will the egg hatch?

-Gary M., Ann Arbor, MI

A: The appearance of an egg can shock the owner of a single bird. And why wouldn’t it? We understand that babies are the result of male and female relations. They do not just appear. The confusion seems to come from the idea that an egg contains a baby bird. It does not.

Eggs are produced by female birds in response to the changing light patterns towards the end of the winter season, slowly warming temperatures and the regrowth of vegetation. This is a signal that breeding season approaches and the endocrine system releases hormones telling the female to produce eggs because the environment is appropriate.

However, without fertilization by a male, these eggs will not hatch into chicks. The unfertilized eggs are merely a vessel which could have housed a developing bird.

The egg is perfectly designed for the task. Inside, the yolk provides a food source and the whites (albumin) surround and protect the growing chick and keeps the yolk from drying out. The egg contains its own waste removal system. The outer shell is fragile enough for the chick to dismantle during hatching yet strong enough to support weight of an adult bird during incubation. An egg is an amazing work of engineering.

In French, but you get the idea…

How Is An Egg Fertilized?

Birds have sex to produce young just like other species of animals. However, they are equipped a little differently than many – male parrots do not have penises. Their reproductive organs are contained internally and they have an opening in their vent area like the female. In order to transfer ejaculate to the female, the male climbs on top of her back and the openings are pressed together.

It is very possible that you have witnessed your bird masturbating. It is most evident in male birds. My cockatiels will squat on their perches and switch their tails back and forth until they are satisfied. When a male is on top of the female you will see similar behavior but also a lot of wing flapping. This makes it seem like an aggressive act, but the wings are in motion mostly to keep the male from falling off.

Once the sex act is complete, the sperm travels up the oviduct tube to the ova where fertilization occurs. The fertilized ovum is joined to a yolk sac and the two travel back down the oviduct to an area where the shell is formed around them and then expelled through the chloacal opening.

Photo from grit.com

The infertile egg that is produced by your bachelorette conure contains everything except a fertilized ovum.

Since the shell of the egg is comprised mainly of calcium, which is taken from your bird’s own personal calcium supply, every egg laid leaves her somewhat depleted. She will need a proper diet to keep her own calcium levels on track.  You should never encourage egg laying for health reason, but if you have a female that is laying, please check out our cookbook/nutrition course for a diet that will support her through breeding season. Be sure to make the appropriate changes in your bird’s environment that make it seem a less suitable breeding environment.

6 comments

joel llanes

I have a.pair of blue parrolets together bonded and one day my daughter opened the cage and the male flew out later I looked inside and there were 3eggs and the female was.sitting on them..do u think they will hatch????

joel llanes
Vee

There is a broad generalization here that is incorrect. "Eggs are produced by female birds in response to the changing light patterns towards the end of the winter season, slowly warming temperatures and the regrowth of vegetation. " This is true for North American passerines, but as anyone with egg layers can tell you, parrots do not follow this rule. Companion parrots often lay despite controlled lighting and temperature, so they are getting an unknown environmental cue (how I wish I knew what it was!). It is common in aviculture to recommend reducing light to stop a chronic layer, but this often doesn’t work. Suggested edit: Eggs are produced by female birds in response to environmental changes that signal that breeding season approaches. Specific triggers can be different for each species. The endocrine system releases hormones telling the female to produce eggs because the environment is appropriate.

Vee
Gunther Hepner

I thought the female was on top, my male red lored amazon is smaller than my female, she is always grabbing his tail feathers and pushing them aside while trying to mate while on top

Gunther Hepner
Patty

Vee, I agree that companion parrots are beginning to show signs of not following “the rules” when it comes to breeding AND molting, but that doesn’t mean that we can disregard what we know to be true of parrots in general or suggest that known facts are not true. When we have identified hidden triggers in the captive parrot environment, I will report those.

Patty
Emily

Do your research on how long your particular species will incubate their eggs. Wait that long after the last egg of the clutch has been laid, then remove them. If you pull them too soon (this is if the bird is actively nesting, a single dropped egg in the cage can be removed) then I agree they will lay more like a chicken and deplete their calcium stores in the process. This was our protocol at the zoo and it worked really well. Sometimes the females keep track, but if they don’t they might starve themselves because they’re still tending to eggs that will never hatch.

Emily
Lynn

I have a Quaker parrot that has layed 4 eggs, she is trying to sit on them ,should I remove them I know they will not hatch. thanks for any help

Lynn

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