Aquatic copulation of the Purple Heron

“On the morning of March 7th, I was observing birds at MacRitchie Reservoir with Bill and Jackie Gomez from the USA. As the sun finally broke through the clouds, the light conditions improved significantly and bird activity increased.

“We then noticed two Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea) flying low over the water. Suddenly, the trailing bird increased its speed and descended upon the first bird, nearly forcing it into the reservoir. The chase continued for a few more seconds before another attempt was made, this time successfully.

“As the first heron landed in the water, the second bird landed on it and a struggle ensued. It then dawned on us that the pursuer was copulating (or trying to anyway) with the “victim”, in the water!

“The act continued for about 30 seconds, during which the bird below was completely submerged more than once. Both had a firm hold of the other’s neck, with their bill. All this was taking place while the birds were floating on the reservoir.

“Eventually, the lower bird broke free and flapped furiously to take off from the water. It flew away leaving the other bird in the water, still partially submerged, where it remained for nearly a minute, looking perplexed (or was it satisfaction). Finally, it too took off and flew away, leaving us quite amazed at the whole spectacle.

“I too was perplexed to remember my camera in my bag…..sorry!”

Subaraj Rajathurai
March 2009

A number of questions need to be answered:
1. Does the Purple Heron has a penis? If not, the male would not be able to pass on its sperms to the female simply through cloacal contact. See HERE.
2. Does herons in general copulate by grabbing at each other’s neck?
3. Are they actually fighting and not copulating?
4. Are both birds male?

2 Responses

  1. yg

    i recognise the place where the above photo was taken. it’s at jalan turut. i have seen this large bird more than once (at the same place) and have been trying to identify it. now, i know it is a purple heron. thanks.
    i am not a serious bird-watcher, though i love nature.

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