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August 16, 2011

IconZebra finches form lasting gay relationships

A new study reveals that zebra finches are capable of forming dedicated same-sex partnerships.

Researchers from the United States and France were examining the strong social bonds commonly built between zebra finch pairs when they noticed that some of the colourful birds were effectively same-sex partners.

“I’m interested in how animals establish relationships and how [they] use acoustic communication in their social interactions,” lead researcher Dr Julie Elie told the BBC. “My observations of [them] led me to this surprising result: same-sex individuals would also interact in affiliative manners, like male-female pairs.”

The ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ finches preened one another, sang to each other and shared a nest in much the same way as heterosexual pairings.

Elie’s team decided to investigate further by raising a number of the finches in single sex groups. Over half of the birds formed same-sex pairings. When female zebra finches were introduced to one of the male groups, five of the eight couples retained their same-sex bond.

“A pair-bond in socially monogamous species represents a cooperative partnership that may give advantages for survival,” explained Elie. “Finding a social partner, whatever its sex, could be a priority.”

Same-sex bonding has also been observed in a number of other bird species, including penguins, ducks, pigeons, vultures and albatrosses.

‘Lesbian’ albatrosses have been known to raise chicks as a couple. “Female partners copulate with a paired male then rear the young together,” Elie said.

3 Responses to Zebra finches form lasting gay relationships

  1. CG says:

    Wow…That’s incredible! How sweet. I love it.

  2. mika says:

    I read somewhere that male giraffes copulate with other males up to 9 times out of 10 :)
    I guess it’s just natural…

  3. Jessica Marie says:

    This is so sweet, it made me smile and get all warm inside.

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