Scientists found that same-sex pairs of finches sang to and preened each other just like heterosexual pairs. [...] "I'm interested in how animals establish relationships and how [they] use acoustic communication in their social interactions," Dr Elie told BBC Nature.
"My observations of [them] led me to this surprising result: same-sex individuals would also interact in affiliative manners, like male-female pairs."
Neat! But surely this is unusual? If male/male bird relationships were common, we would have heard about this already, right?
First, she and her colleagues, Clementine Vignal and Nicolas Mathevon from the University of Saint-Etienne, raised young finches in same-sex groups. More than half of the birds paired up with another bird of the same sex.[...] In the next stage of their study, the scientists brought novel females to a group of bonded male-male pairs. Out of eight males that were engaged in same-sex pair-bonds, five ignored the females completely and continued to interact with their male partner.
Five out of eight! It's like it is totally part of the animal world to be gay! But Dr. Elie, is there nuzzling?
The team then closely monitored the birds for signs that they had bonded fully.
Bonded birds, Dr Elie explained, perch side by side, nestled together. They also greet each other by "nuzzling" beaks.
Nuzzling breaks. Awwww. And:
The findings indicate that, even in birds, the drive to find a mate is far more complicated than simply the need to reproduce.
"A pair-bond in socially monogamous species represents a cooperative partnership that may give advantages for survival," said Dr Elie. "Finding a social partner, whatever its sex, could be a priority."
There are many other examples of same-sex pairing in the avian world.
In monogamous gulls and albatrosses, it gives females the chance to breed without a male partner.
"Female partners copulate with a paired male then rear the young together," Dr Elie explained.
These birdies think they're people! Also, looks like not only is same-sex partnering "not natural" or something only humans do, it's not even that unusual in nature. Odd how nobody noticed that before. Oh, and our Central Park penguins get a shout-out at the end. Aw, penguins. Aw, gay nature.