Gay finches mate for life

Add another piece of evidence from the animal kingdom that same-sex bird couples can be just as responsible — and romantic — as hetero birds. First there were the gay penguins who raised a baby together, now there are the gay zebra finches who mate for life.

According to a paper published in the latest issue of Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, these finches are just as dedicated and loving as heterosexual members of their species.

The findings support the notion that "relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce, even in birds" said UC Berkeley's Julie Elie, whose previous observations of commonly heterosexual behaviors in male-male finch pairs led her to conduct the study.

To examine the finches' behavior, Elie and her colleagues raised finches in same-sex groups. Given previous observations, the team was unfazed when they found that more than half of the birds not only courted and paired off with a finch of the same sex, but exhibited signs that they had fully bonded as a couple — engaging in such public displays of affection as perching side by side and greeting one other with a nuzzling of beaks.

In the second half of their study, however, the researchers proved that these same-sex couples were just as monogamous as their heterosexual counterparts. When Elie and her team introduced novel females into a group of bonded male-male couples to stir up trouble, only three of the eight males engaged in same sex relationships were caught looking — the remaining homosexual finches ignored the females altogether.

"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."

Via BBC Nature