More from Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl. Ocher-Bellied Flycatchers are small, long-tailed, olive green birds who live in lowland forests between Mexico and the Amazon.
These Flycatchers have a complex social organisation and three distinct types of male. About 42% are territorial, defending “courts” in the foliage within which they perform courtship displays. Sometimes groups of these territorials form an area of several nearby display courts, also known as a lek. 10% of males are satellites who associate with territorials but do not display. This could be regarded as a form of apprenticeship, since they often inherit the territory when the owner retires. 48% of males are itinerant and have no territory either of their own or in waiting.
The aim of the male leks is to attract a female mate, but territorial males will also court other males who visit. These visiting males will adopt the behaviour of females in every detail and be courted as if they really were female. Most interestingly of all, it appears that the courting males only realise that their mate is male when they reach the point of mating with them. At this point they will usually chase away the behaviourally “transvestite” male. The itinerant males, conversely, must be well aware that they are being courted by another male. There have been observations of apparently bisexual territorial males who court females in their own territory, but then go as a visitor in search of same-sex action in the territories of other males.
Ocher-Bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus dyscola)
Homosexuality: Male Transgender: Transvestism Behaviours: Courtship Ranking: Incidental Observed: Wild
(See It’s Gay Animal Fortnight for an explanation of this box.)
Next time on Gay Animal Fortnight… more tiny avian transvestites!