Within days, the story had made its way to Fox News. The following week, Sean Hannity piled on. I followed Duckpenisgate with particular trepidation, since I was one of the co-investigators on the maligned study. For the past decade, in collaboration with Patricia Brennan, of Mount Holyoke College, and other colleagues, I have explored the sexual behavior and genital evolution of waterfowl. Contrary to what Carlson thinks, it is a fascinating business. It can also be shockingly brutal.
The horrible thing you never knew about ducks
This Is How Ducks Have Sex And It's Pretty Incredible
How does a duck change its sex?
Corkscrew genitalia for everyone! And penis spines. There are always penis spines.
Last year, I was surprised to find my female mandarin duck was turning into a male. Even as a zoology graduate and someone who has kept birds in an aviary since I was 10 years old, I had absolutely no idea this could happen, so I started investigating, and it turns out that the way birds express their sex is a fiendishly complex affair. They have been kept in captivity in the UK for decades after bird keepers became enamoured by the male's incredible breeding plumage. This plumage is a secondary sexual characteristic of the males, and is dependent on the time of year, with males moulting out of a female-like dull brown colouration in the Autumn. My female, being happily paired with a male mandarin in my aviary, bucked this trend by growing male feathers.