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Pairs of male Zebra Finches form bonds as strong as opposite-sex pairs

For male Zebra Finches, it seems as though a “bro-mance” is sometimes more important than a relationship with the opposite sex.

A new study from the University of Berkeley found that when male Zebra Finches grow up with other males, they form powerful bonds that last a lifetime.

As they grew older together, the males paired off and showed signs of affection toward one another. Even when females were introduced to the group, most of the male pairs stayed together.

Although there is no evidence of a sexual partnership, this does reveal that having a reliable partner (regardless of its gender) is more important than forming a reproductive relationship. Scientists say that creating a cooperative partnership is more complicated than the male-female dynamic because it could be vital to their survival.

Zebra Finches usually form lifelong monogamous bonds where the birds do things for one another like preen feathers, sing together and nuzzle beaks.

This is really nothing new for birds though. There are a number of species and celebrity pairs of same-sex couples that form powerful bonds with one another.

For example, Discovery pointed out that two female albatrosses paired together to the point where one went off to mate, but came back so she could raise her chicks with the female. There are also two penguins at the Central Park Zoo that raised chicks after a zookeeper put eggs in their nest.

Discovery repeated that there is nothing sexual going on and it’s merely a sign of a powerful bond. In fact, they say this is not comparable to the sexuality in humans:

In situations like these, humans are quick to put their own sexual definitions on animals. But it is important to remember that our own sexual definitions of hetero- vs. homosexual are set by our cultures, and the labels we put on each other and on animals are based in our culture as well. Cultural sterotypes in some human societies about male-male affection may make people inclined to label affection between male animals as evidence of homosexuality.

These Zebra Finches demonstrate a strong bond on the basis of survival and it’s probably nothing more than that.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


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