Gay Bird Drawing of Two Black Grouse — Arts Books Crafts by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Some years ago my husband and I enjoyed a holiday in Wales. After long walks, we would sit down in the evening on a stone jetty overlooking the Afon Mawddach, which looks like a loch, but opens up to the Irish sea. Two swans and one goose would come up to us for some […]

via Gay Bird Drawing of Two Black Grouse — Arts Books Crafts by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

I don’t usually reblog posts but I felt compelled to reblog Paula’s drawing – it is gorgeous and it illustrates an interesting bird behaviour that is not commonly known. After seeing Paula’s drawing, I was very curious to find out how common homosexual interaction is in birds and how it is expressed in different species. It turns out same-sex pair-bonding and sexual activity is fairly common in the animal kingdom and has been observed in 1500 animal species and is well documented for about 500 of them. More than 130 species of birds are known to participate in homosexual activity.

If you are interested in reading about the different ways animals express homosexual behaviour, I recommend “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity” by Bruce Bagemihl. The first chapter can be viewed online. Also, the Norwegian Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo hosted an exhibition on homosexuality in the animal kingdom called “Against Nature?” in 2006 and some information about the exhibit is on their website.

Below is an excerpt from Bruce Bagemihl’s book that compares and contrasts homosexual activity in three different goose species:

In Canada Geese, both males and females participate in the same basic type of homosexual activity, forming same-sex pairs and engaging in some courtship activities. Within these same-sex bonds, however, there are gender differences in some less common behaviors: sexual activity is more characteristic of females (especially if they are part of a bisexual trio), as is nest-building and parenting activity. There are also differences in the frequency of participation of the two sexes: although same-sex pairs are relatively common, accounting for more than 10 percent of pairs in some populations, a greater proportion of the male population participates in same-sex pairing. In contrast, homosexual activity in Snow Geese is vastly different in males than in females, although it is relatively infrequent in both sexes. Females form long-lasting pair-bonds with other females in which sexual activity is not necessarily very prominent, although parenting activity is: both partners lay eggs in a joint nest and raise their young together (they fertilize their eggs by mating with males). Ganders, on the other hand, limit their homosexual activity to same-sex mounting of other males during heterosexual group rape attempts and do not form same-sex pairs (although interspecies gander pairs with Canada Geese sometimes do occur). Finally, in Greylag Geese homosexual activity is found exclusively in males, who form gander pairs that engage in a variety of courtship, sexual, pair-bonding, and parenting activities.

Paula also created a beautiful illustration of a female Eclectus parrot couple.

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7 Comments

  1. The workmanship of her drawing is beautiful as are the birds.

    Interesting topic. I’ve seen a documentary on a group of monkeys that had homosexual pairs. It was actually quite refreshing to see how well they were treated and loved by the whole group.

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    1. Thanks for your insightful comment, Deborah. I did a quick Google search to look for examples of non-human animals being ostracized by other members of their species and I couldn’t find any. In social animals, it seems that homosexual behaviours are one of many harmonious social behaviours. Except for sheep, animals that were observed to engage in homosexual behaviours were also observed to engage in heterosexual activity, so same-sex bonding hasn’t been found to negatively impact reproduction. As for sheep, who have a specific sexual preference, I haven’t read anything about heterosexual sheep begrudging gay and asexual sheep for not reproducing. Sheep farmers, however, like to own sheep that can reproduce.

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  2. Amazing, the variety of behaviors in three species of geese alone! I think this world actually has a lot of space for a lot of differences, don’t you?

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    1. Diversity helps life to thrive :-). I’m always amazed by the infinitely many forms and behaviours of the species that survive in the various earth ecosystems. I found it interesting to read that non-human social animals also express sexual behaviour outside of pair bonding, in so many different ways. Some of this behaviour is aggressive, but some is harmonious – providing affection, pleasure and social bonding.

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  3. Interesting post, Myriam. It hadn’t occurred t me that this sort of thing was going on in the animal world!

    By the way, WordPress isn’t letting me scroll down to read all of your reply to me the other day about chemicals, and I so wanted to read it and respond. If you like, you could write to me directly at my email~ melissabluefineart@yahoo.com

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    1. I’m glad you found this post interesting, Melissa. I learned a surprising amount about animal sexuality this year – from a documentary about Sage Grouse, from the BBC Life series, from dragonflies and grasshoppers mating in nearby parks and from Paula’s male Black Grouse pair.

      I’m also glad that WordPress fixed its scrolling glitch so we could continue our chemical conversation. 🙂

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