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The “cloacal kiss” of Bearded Vultures

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With a wingspan of up to 2.85m and huge tails that stand in the way, copulating is a complex task for Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus). In this amazing slow-motion video, recorded by Hansruedi Weyrich, two magnificent adults copulate, and it is possible to see what we charmingly refer to as the “cloacal kiss.”

Bearded Vultures’ cloacal kiss

Bearded vultures, like many other bird species, engage in a unique mating ritual. The cloaca is a multi-purpose opening used for excretion, reproduction, and laying eggs. In a moment of intimacy, the male hops onto the female’s back to connect their respective cloacae for the “cloacal kiss” by briefly pressing their cloacas together they exchange genetic material for fertilisation. The task requires quite some exquisite skills, and the cloacae contact lasts for just a few seconds. So the male does it repeatedly, several times a day, to ensure there is enough time to transfer his sperm to the female.

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