More from Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl. Mute (European and temperate Asian) Swans are already quite well known for forming same sex partnerships, if only because newspapers and local news TV stations never seem to tire of reporting them as “amusing” filler items, as if there was something inherently absurd or comedic about them. By now you should be getting the idea that there’s nothing aberrant about it. Pairs of males, pairs of females, pairs who mate heterosexually only so one of them can get an egg of their own (i.e. what would be called among humans surrogate parenthood), and parents fostering cygnets to whom they have no biological connection: all of these are relatively common, naturally occurring and well-documented family arrangements for Swans. About 20-25% of successful (meaning in this case raising one or more cygnets to adulthood) Swan families have homosexual parents.
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Homosexuality: Female & Male Behaviours: Courtship, Sexual, Pair-bonding, Parenting Ranking: Primary Observed: Wild, Semiwild, Captivity
(See It’s Gay Animal Fortnight for an explanation of this box.)
In addition to same-sex parenthood, some Swans appear to be “exclusively” homosexual. Female pairs may sit on unfertilised eggs because they’ve never mated with a male, and male pairs sometimes build nests together but never show any interest in acquiring eggs or cygnets. Moreover, up to 89% of individuals (and rarely less than 50%) in any given Swan population are barely reproductive, or they’re asexual and never attempt to breed at all. Many birds may only nest once or twice in a lifetime of 15-20 years. Male swans sometimes shack up with homosexual birds of other species, including other types of swans, or geese.
Next time on Gay Animal Fortnight… big nose means big everything? Or you’re a Proboscis Monkey.
Original Swan image from Wikipedia Commons.