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Gay ducks derail repopulation plan

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Why are all the good blue ducks gay?

That’s what Cherry, the last remaining lass of her kind in England, may be asking herself after two male prospects that might have helped her perpetuate the species fell for one another instead of for her.

"They stay together all the time, parading up and down their enclosure and whistling to each other as a male might do with a female he wants to mate with," Paul Stevens, the warden at Arundel Wetland Center, tells the Telegraph.

The boy birds, Ben and Jerry, were introduced to Cherry, but to no avail. "Cherry showed some interest in him," Stevens told the newspaper, referring to Jerry. "She displayed typical mating behavior—she approached him and called to him, she even looked like she was nesting. We thought it was great and it was all going to happen, but nothing ever did."

Feathers flew, however, when Ben and Jerry were shacked up together. "To our surprise, the two males really took to each other and it was obvious that they really liked each other," Stevens said, adding: "Ben and Jerry do make a lovely couple."

Ben and Jerry aren’t the first gay members of the animal kingdom. Roy and Silo, penguin residents of the Central Park Zoo in New York City, mated there a decade ago—among the 1,500 species that have been observed engaging in homosexual activity. But Ben and Jerry’s coupling is bad news for blue ducks in England, where the threesome is thought to be among the only such birds in the country, the Telegraph reports. Blue ducks are native to New Zealand and are threatened with extinction, according to that country’s Department of Conservation.

As for Cherry, she’s taking Ben and Jerry’s relationship in stride, Stevens told the Telegraph. "Cherry doesn’t seem bothered by it," he said. "She’s just happy to keep to herself."

Image of Blue Duck by Karora via Wikimedia Commons





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  1. 1. scott747 12:47 pm 03/11/2009

    Well this isn’t going to go down well with the right wing religious minority, is it?

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  2. 2. Mr. Lobster 5:17 pm 03/11/2009

    And some claim that homosexuality is unnatural… This just goes to show otherwise.

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  3. 3. gayduckboy89 10:01 pm 03/11/2009

    Hi Jason Grant!

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  4. 4. fnickell 11:19 pm 03/11/2009

    So tell me, are blue ducks left or right wing(ed)?

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  5. 5. Nathaniel 2:53 am 03/12/2009

    I use the statistic that 1,500 animal species have been found to engage in homosexual activity to refute the claim that "homosexuality is unnatural." The fun part is that such logic doesn’t mean that it’s natural for humans to engage in homosexual behavior. What is true for one animal isn’t always true for another. Also, just because it happens doesn’t mean it’s moral. For instance, koalas reproduce when the male viciously attacks, beats, and rapes the female koala. This is how they naturally reproduce, this does not mean that it can be inferred that it is natural, or moral for humans to reproduce in the same manner. So the question "is it natural?" has no bearing whatsoever on the argument. The real question should be "is it moral?" In which case I believe that it is. When it comes to it, what happens between two consenting human adults is their business, not mine. As long as I’m not involved in a sexually exclusive contract (ie: marriage) with any one of the parties involved, I have NO RIGHT to tell them what they can and cannot do.

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  6. 6. H2OGeek 8:04 am 03/12/2009

    I blame Tinky Winky!!
    The zoo keepers must have shown that British Teletubby show to Ben and Jerry.

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  7. 7. TomGallopavo 9:41 am 03/12/2009

    As an avid hunter of many animals, I can tell you this is certainly not unusual in the wild turkey population and viewing the behavior as "homosexual" is merely an anthropomorphism. Sure right wingers might get their feathers ruffled (pardon the pun) but I’m sure just as many Gays or left wingers will be delighted. I personally don’t care what people do behind closed doors or whether ducks or turkeys are hootin’ at each other but I sure would like a shot at a really HOT gobbler this spring (gay or not I’ll be eating him). Cheers!

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  8. 8. TomGallopavo 9:45 am 03/12/2009

    Oh yea, when they see one of those boys squat down and the other mount from behind…that would get my attention………

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  9. 9. frgough 10:45 am 03/12/2009

    This whole article reeks of anthropomorphism. "it’s obvious they really liked each other" WTH?

    And the 1500 cases of homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom is the same kind of sloppy propaganda masquerading as science that SA does with global warming. They call genital bumping in female apes homosexual behavior even though it is completely non-sexual in nature, but is a form of greeting and communication of social standing similar to a dog curling its tail and baring its neck.

    Of course, the whole concept of homosexuality is a biological absurdity as anyone who’s taken a high school course in sexual reproduction should know.

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  10. 10. kiijkasa 11:13 am 03/12/2009

    @frgough: And anyone who’s taken a course in biology above the high school level (because I don’t know of any course in high school specifically about sexual reproduction) should know that it’s not completely absurd. Anthropology courses also would indicate this. For some female primates, for example, homosexual behavior would seem to be a successful mating strategy. Meanwhile, we’re now finding that homosexuality in men is tied to high fertility in women. So it’s a natural effect that is either intentionally developed or a side-effect of a different evolutionary strategy.

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  11. 11. ApodacaG 3:40 pm 03/12/2009

    I think everyone is kinda missing the point here. A rare species of duck is about to go extinct. I think the question is, should humans artificially breed these animals for the future of their species when it appears that preservation is not a priority for the species itself?

    I’d have to say that it really depends on what the cause of the decimation of the species actually was to begin with. If humans are to blame (which we usually always are, in one way or another) I think that it is necessary to grab those males, "Milk" them (in the same manner we would turkeys), and AI the females and observe the next few generations.

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  12. 12. ApodacaG 3:40 pm 03/12/2009

    I think everyone is kinda missing the point here. A rare species of duck is about to go extinct. I think the question is, should humans artificially breed these animals for the future of their species when it appears that preservation is not a priority for the species itself?

    I’d have to say that it really depends on what the cause of the decimation of the species actually was to begin with. If humans are to blame (which we usually always are, in one way or another) I think that it is necessary to grab those males, "Milk" them (in the same manner we would turkeys), and AI the females and observe the next few generations.

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  13. 13. lovesmukiwa 6:55 pm 03/12/2009

    Certainly high school reproduction class is the expert resource for all knowledge on homosexuality.

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  14. 14. trapezoidal 2:05 am 03/13/2009

    Artificial insemination tiem?

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  15. 15. trapezoidal 2:06 am 03/13/2009

    Artificial insemination tiem?

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  16. 16. Stormalong 11:43 am 03/13/2009

    The idea that ducks are gay is absurd! If ducks followed the gay lifestyle they would lose their watertight integrity and sink!

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  17. 17. rota426 11:56 am 03/13/2009

    I agree Stormalong, it is absurd. So is the idea that humans are gay. You know if ducks were gay, some would probably sink because so many other ducks were full-time haters – but since ducks aren’t gay Stormalong: you can feel free to hate on me, because you can say my feathers aren’t luxurious but I know they are. Oh also – if ducks were gay, they would probably have a higher hhi, avg education and brighter children per capita than the straight ducks. But they wouldn’t bring it up, because then they’d be street trash like yourself.

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  18. 18. Lancelot039 12:26 am 03/14/2009

    For the sake of saving the specie, anyone has taught of putting the female with only one male at the time. That makes me wonder what gays would do if they were confined to an island forever with only members of the other sex. Would they turn hetero? And conversely, an hetero confined with only members of his sex? Mmm…

    Luckily, there is enough non-gays of us to claim that our specie do care about survival. With 6.7 billions of us (and counting), maybe we care too much. Perhaps this is why nature produces gays.

    And as for rota426, your comment makes me wonder who hates whom. Life is too short to waste energy in hatred. Move on, assume and be happy.

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  19. 19. atarikg 3:16 am 03/14/2009

    How do they know that they’re gay ? I mean thy have tried to have sex with each other ? I mean just because they’re going along well and don’t wanna be a lovely couple with a female duck doesn’t make a duck gay. I mean you have to make a serious research to determine whether they’re gay or not and people can be gay because they want to, but when it comes to duck they have no thoughts about being gay and you just classify them as gays just because they have friendship (or I hope so) with a other male duck and shacking up with him or not call it shacking up, just name it living with a male fella. Whatever,it just seems to weird to name them gays to me. :)

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  20. 20. atarikg 4:03 am 03/14/2009

    Haha… awesome response.

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  21. 21. rossfrost 4:10 am 03/14/2009

    Why are all the good ducks gay?

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  22. 22. CleffedUp 5:39 am 03/14/2009

    RE: Anthropomorphism, you have to read the linked article from the Telegraph, which describes the actual behavior between the males.

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  23. 23. hotblack 2:06 pm 03/14/2009

    These comments reek of anthropocentricity. As if all other species are meatbags with feet, without brains, without the very same motivations and responses that humans have regarding attraction, courting, breeding, mating, and social structure. Some really smart people on here.

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  24. 24. ErnestPayne 4:27 pm 03/16/2009

    This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "everything is ducky".

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  25. 25. rota426 5:14 pm 03/16/2009

    Actually Lancelot039 – if you read my response again I was criticizing haters not endorsing hate. If you didn’t understand my sarcasm I apologize for being vague. As for your island scenario I don’t see it being a logical comparison. We live in a day/environment where such lifestyles are possible and even easy, with systems, technology and groups setup to allow for numerous options when it comes to same sex couples and pro-creation. You know that right? In some places – gays are even allowed to adopt children! Wow!

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  26. 26. royniles 4:12 pm 03/17/2009

    Statistically, the last two members of a species nearing extinction will likely be non-reproductive. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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  27. 27. rfcoles 8:32 am 03/18/2009

    A few of the clearly homophobic comments here are astonishing if indeed they pertain to the scientific community. Homosexuality is of course rooted in the natural world as are human beings themselves. These comments are perhaps more indicative of a scientifically advanced, yet socially primitive America. I should know, I live there.

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  28. 28. Tucker M 10:46 am 03/18/2009

    @Lancelot039: I’m not aware of any documented instances of homosexuals being locked up solely with women, so I agree it’s hard to know what effect that would have on sexual activity. But all across this great country of ours, we create the reverse situation every day; we lock heterosexuals up solely with others of the same sex (they’re called "prisons")…and I think we all know something of the effect that has on sexual activity. So while there’s little data that gays could be temporarily "turned" by such a strategy, there’s plenty of data that straights can be.

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  29. 29. PiePush3r 7:44 pm 03/21/2009

    I don’t think caretakers observed Ben and Jerry together and automatically assumed they were gay for each other. I think Cherry was literally the last blue duck in England and neither Ben or Jerry gay-ve her the time of day.

    Also, note observations such as, "They stay together all the time [...] whistling to each other AS A MALE MIGHT DO WITH A FEMALE he wants to MATE with …" I don’t know anything about ducks, but it seems unlikely it’s just a bromance.

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  30. 30. GirlInTheFire 3:52 pm 04/22/2009

    In reply to ‘frgough’, I just have to point out that I work at that wetland centre and have seen the ducks personally and it isn’t anthropomorphising them by saying that seem to like eachother.
    It isn’t beyond animals to have a range of emotions and to express these in different ways; even the odd octopus and puffer fish have been known to show emotion and thse ducks, as Paul said, actually DO seem to really like eachother. Just think of the heartbreak species such as swans show when one mate dies. If they can have that, then happiness as a pair isn’t impossible.
    I’ve watched them – as have the rest of the staff here – change from being quiet and meek on their own to being boisterous, happy and more active now they’re together. When seperated they showed distress, so this isn’t projecting human mannerisms on them it is stating fact about these animals.

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  31. 31. civalc 2:24 am 12/20/2013

    http://www.livescience.com/20532-birth-control-water-pollution.html

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