What can you learn from birds? Here’s something. I think that one should be fair and respectful to all people and all things. Do wrong and the karma you create will ill-serve you next time around. Be a bit silly and do a little dumb and you might come back as a male emu. Spell SILLY in upper case and act like a complete shocker and you might share the lot of the male Emperor penguin.
For the little dumb, reflect for a moment on emu reproduction. The male and female share beautiful moments with the male making active with his penis, one of the few birds to have one. Males of most bird species have genital swellings through which, when aligned with the female’s cloaca, pass the sperm. A male emu inseminates with his penis and females compete to be served. Once the eggs are laid, the male takes over sole responsibility from then on. He does all of the incubating, losing up to a third of his body weight while doing so, and then manages all of the parental care as the chicks are raised.
Yes, you might not want to come back as a male emu.
But it is coming back as an Emperor penguin that is to be avoided. Such a fate is deserved only by the extremely silly!
Emperor penguins lay their single egg in May or June, the very dead of the Antarctic winter. Having done the job, the female goes off by herself to feed and frolic, leaving the hapless chap to do the incubating.
The males, largeish and chunky in build, incubate the whopping great egg that is carried on their feet. They have a curtain of flabby belly, a brood pouch, hanging low and covering the egg to keep it warm. The males, carrying their egg-weights on their frozen feet, stand around in great shivering masses, huddling to keep warm as the winds swirl around them and draw away their body heat. At various times, it’s a case of all change and fellows on the outside quickly (as much as an egg mass will allow) charge to the centre as it’s clearly warmer there. The slower others have to take their turn to bear the windy brunt of the outside huddle.
Incubation takes over two long and frigid months and finally, the egg cracks open to reveal a great lumping chick, begging to be fed. This the male does from his dwindling food reserve as he starts the long shuffle to the edge of the ice where the female might by now have returned to share the parental role. What is particularly unkind, I think, is that the long shuffle is now tens of kilometres longer than it might have been. And worse, it is all done with the great and growing lump on the feet of the long-suffering male, for the ice shelf has extended into the sea through the long winter.
I don’t know which bit of being a male Emperor penguin is fun. I just know that I don’t want to tempt fate and bring on bad karma that might see me next time on earth as an Emperor penguin.