Strictly not for the birds

I posted this on another blog in 2002: In 1999, as an intern training at the editorial office of The Week in Kochi, I came to be known as the Birdman thanks to a feature on Kashmir’s Dal Lake that I had to rewrite. I peppered the piece with pintails, garganey and shovellers, adding colour and cackle to what arrived on the desk as a pretty drab report. It never occurred to me that the news of my skills would be tom-tommed all the way to the sacred cabins of the top brass. One day a senior editor came up to my workstation, and bent down sheepishly for a seemingly conspiratorial exchange. “Do ducks have pricks?” he hissed. “No,” I said, inadvertently mimicking his whisper, and pretending to conceal my shock. “Then how do they do it?” he asked incredulously. “Birds belong to Class Aves, they have no external genitalia,” I said, trying in vain not to sound professorial. “Both sexes have a cloacal aperture, which is differentiated internally. Often the male may have cloacal spurs to secure the moment of contact.” “Which means…” “Which means ‘sex’ between birds is merely cloacal contact,” I said, shrugging. “Oh…” he said, his face betraying great dismay. “Yes, sir,” I empathized. “The joys of intercourse, more specifically intromission, are strictly not for the birds.” UPDATE: The beloved bird scientist Gopi Sundar updates me thus: Ducks are among the few aves who have semi-pricks
swans have slightly bigger ones