Have you ever come across the myth that bald eagles mate while flying? It goes several ways. One way is that they free-fall, legs entwines with each other as they plummet towards the earth, managing to end their copulation either quite effectively and with plenty of time to spare, or just in the nick of time. Another supposed method is that the eager and willing birds will meet mid flight, embrace one another and mate. I’ll admit that it sounds pretty amazing, but as the late nature lover and animal campaigner Steve Irwin would say, is it fair dinkum (true)?
The spectacle of eagles interlocking with one another in what appears to be a mating ritual is well documented. Many many people have not only seen this act being carried out, but have also filmed it in action. But what hasn’t been proven is if bald eagles mate while flying. Apart from grappling one another and thrashing about in the air, there is no visual proof that they are engaging in sex. Sure, people who engage in a little rough sex may think that because they like it rough and risky, every other living animal must also. But the lack of visual proof is deafening.
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Not only is there an astounding lack of proof of penetration while the birds are in flight, there’s aso the little matter of juvenile eagles also engaging in the exact same behaviour. While not yet at mating age, these youngsters would hardly be copulating. So if these younger birds, and even the older ones aren’t mating in flight, when and how do they mate?
Now we know that bald eagles don’t mate while flying, we need to know where and how they do it, because we are both inquisitive and perverts. They actually mate either on a tree branch or in a nest, where it is safe and they can get a firm grip. They mate by touching cloacae – the cloacal kiss, which is a brief encounter. The male mounts the back of the female and turns his tail under hers. They press their cloacae together, and the male will send his sperm to the female. While the encounter is brief, it is a frequent one throughout the mating cycle.