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Gay flamingos strike long-term relationship

Carlos and Fernando: model pink parents

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Regular readers will know that we have an occassional thread running regarding homosexuality in animals - purely, of course, in the interests of informed scientific debate.

We're obliged then, to our old mate Rose Humphrey for alerting us to a pair of gay flamingos who have successfully raised three generations of "adopted" chicks at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Slimbridge site.

According to the WWT report, greater flamingos Carlos and Fernando have been hitched for five years. Twice a year they strut their stuff in an "elaborate courtship dance" before "stealing eggs from their heterosexual neighbours to bring up as their own".

WWT aviculture manager Nigel Jarrett elaborates: "Their parental instincts are very strong prompting them to raid the nests of other couples in the flock. They have been known to fight the heterosexual birds and there is usually a 'handbags at dawn' moment where they will fight with another couple before stealing their egg. They are both large adult males so as a partnership they are quite formidable and are afforded more respect from the other birds. They are also very good parents and behave just as the heterosexual birds do when rearing their young."

In case you're wondering how the lads provide for their kidnapped charges, for the first three or four weeks "young flamingos are fed on crop milk, a pink nutritious liquid produced by both parents so Carlos and Fernando have no problem feeding their adopted young".

Since said adopted young presumably come from heterosexual couples, it will be interesting to see how many of them later show homosexual tendencies. Their eventual sexuality will doubtless further fuel the nature/nurture debate, and provides us with the perfect scientific justification for running this story in the first place. ®

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