Gay Birds: Do Ask, Do Tell

Variety is the spice of life.

I’ve loved living in many places, having different jobs and meeting all kinds of people. And in my travels I have come across people who believe there is a formula for the way things should and shouldn’t be. For them, homosexuality is an abomination of nature.

But nature is all about variety; in the natural world anything goes. And as for abominations? Nature does not even acknowledge them. A female praying mantis eats the head of the male after mating, bed bugs make a hole in the side of the female wherever they like in order to mate (it’s called traumatic insemination), and sometimes, on a kinder, gentler scale, birds make a pair bond with members of the same sex.

Lester and Lulu hanging out during the day in their nest box. Wishing they had chicks?

At XXX, Lester and Lulu have been a couple for at least two years. They live together in a nest box under the lighthouse, call to and preen each other, and have prepared a nest bowl. But their nest is empty because Lulu is actually a male penguin. Although penguins are difficult to sex, I can’t help thinking the naming error was an appropriate mistake. Lester and Lulu have made all the right moves that would make them good parents. This year they have even been taking turns on the nest and spend time there together during the day, despite the fact that they don’t have any eggs or chicks.

Homosexual behaviour in birds and animals is more common than one might think. Examples in nature include nematodes, dolphins, birds, snails, toads and rams. In a Hawaiian Laysan albatross colony, 30% of the pairs are females and many of these “lesbian” pairs have been raising chicks together for years. It has led to a population boom in a colony that was once struggling. Several zoos have had homosexual penguins, and a few have even given their odd couples chicks to raise which they have done successfully. (Two different zoo stories linked here.)

At XXX, if a penguin parent is injured or does not return to the nest, Rosalie has to foster out chicks to parents with one or no chicks. Who knows? Maybe Lester and Lulu will get their chance to be penguin parents after all.

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3 thoughts on “Gay Birds: Do Ask, Do Tell

  1. This is such a lovely story Jill, I hope that Lulu and Lester get to raise a chick!!!
    I can’t believe it has taken me this long to visit your site – I am terrible… been spreading the word up here

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