Although they’re quite common at our place at Strangways, it’s always a special delight to encounter an Echidna. So an Echidna train is a real (and much rarer) treat. On Sunday, three of these gorgeous animals trooped past our front yard in an amorous promenade.
Echidnas have a very particular mating protocol, as one would expect for such a prickly animal. When a female is ready to mate, she is followed by a number of males in what biologists call a train. Trains usually consist of 3-5 animals, but up to eleven have been recorded.
The males become very focused as they follow the female to whatever place she decides is the safest for mating to occur. The female checked out quite a few logs and old stumps before she moved on. One of the males would periodically sniff at her tail on the way.
He would also occasionally roll onto his side behind her and push his tail into hers, apparently trying to get in early, but with little interest from the female. Typically, mating waits until the train is in a safe place and the male has to dig his way under her to get access with his tail under hers. During copulation, his penis will grow to 1/3 of his body length.
The train wended around our place until the female found the fence for our chook yard. This aroused the curiosity of our resident White-winged Choughs.
Eventually, the female decided that underneath our chooks’ house was the place. The trio made their way under it, spent the night there and were gone in the morning.
Australian Geographic has an easy-to-read and enjoyable article on Echidna trains at https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2021/08/echidna-trains-explained/