Rapes and Gang rapes in birds

White-fronted bee-eaters (CC BY 2.0)

White-fronted bee-eaters (CC BY 2.0)

Males in some species of birds combine their sexual act with highly coercive and violent assaults. Thus rapes and even gang rapes are very common in these species. Ducks and geese figure prominently in this list, however, some other species too indulge in such behaviour. According to ornithologists about a third of duck-sex is forced. Although rapes in birds are always sexually motivated (unlike many human rapes), the attacks, nevertheless, are often vicious, and female may be badly injured, or even killed, particularly if she has been subjected to repeated rapes.

White-fronted bee-eaters (Merops bullockoides)

Female white-fronted bee-eaters are subjected to forced copulations or rape. When they emerge from their nest burrows, especially unmated males sometimes force them to the ground and mate with them. Such forced copulations are made preferentially on females who are laying eggs and who thus might lay the eggs of their rapist rather than their own mate. These birds nest in colonies comprising of socially monogamous, extended family groups averaging 200 individuals, digging roosting and nesting holes in cliffs or banks of earth.

Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos)

Copulation in Mallard ducks often becomes forced and very violent. They usually form pairs (in October and November in the Northern hemisphere) only until the female lays eggs at the start of nesting season, which is around the beginning of spring, at which time she is left by the male who joins up with other males to await the moulting period which begins in June (in the Northern hemisphere). During the brief time before this, however, the males are still sexually potent and some of them either remain on standby to sire replacement clutches (for female mallards that have lost or abandoned their previous clutch) or forcibly mate with females that appear to be isolated or unattached regardless of their species and whether or not they have a brood of ducklings.

When females pair off with mating partners, often one or several drakes end up left out. This group often targets females that are isolated, even one of a different species, and proceeds to chase and peck at her until she weakens, at which point the males take turns copulating with the female, thus committing gang rape.

Sexually charged mallard males often become so aggressive and violent that at times they kill the female by drowning when attacked in water. It has been reported that half of all mallard broods are the result of multiple paternity.

Wood Duck pair (Author - BS Thurner Hof) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wood Duck pair (Author – BS Thurner Hof) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

However, as most of these ducks practice “egg-dumping” that involves laying eggs in nests of others of their own species, multiple paternity does not always indicates adulterous relationship.

Wood duck (Aix sponsa)

Wood ducks also have been known to practice “gang rapes” where as many as 50-75 males try to mate with a single female. Dr. Joe Robb, studying waterfowls at Muscadeck National Wildlife Refuge in central Indiana in mid May, saw what he estimated to be more than 50, and perhaps as many as 75, drake wood ducks assaulting one hen. The attack, amidst a bubbling mass of birds and water, lasted 20 minutes.

They are one of the most colorful North American waterfowl and a species of perching ducks.

Cattle Egret  (pix SShukla)

Cattle Egret (pix SShukla)

Eastern Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis)

Eastern Cattle Egrets are seasonally monogamous. The male establishes his territory and attracts females with his courtship displays. Once a female accepts him, she will attempt to subdue him by landing on his back. The pair will then move off to build their nest where copulation takes place. Cases of rape and rape attempts have been documented by Fujioka & Yamagishi (1981) and Telfair (1994).

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