17 May 2021

All colours are astounding and uniquely splendid: nature's lesson on celebrating diversity

If you love birds, and know them, you never stop to be amazed by their beauty and their diversity of colours, shapes, behaviours and songs. This diversity is the main reason why birds are such a flagship class of animals: we simply cannot help but admire their endeavours and their variety.

© Mark Sully Shutterstock
By Antonio Vulcano

Birds are a great example we should learn from: as this article highlights, birds (and animals) aren’t judge-y: they don’t care who you are attracted to nor are they going to question your gender. That’s mainly because animals haven’t been raised in the same social structures that we, as humans, have. Nowadays, some progress has also been made by us, humans (although there is still a long way to go to further improve in many aspects). Since 2004, some of us have been celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which was created to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. This isn't one centralised campaign. Rather this day is a moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action around whatever issue and in whatever format that they may wish. It is an opportunity to reflect and, once again, to see us as a complementary part of a fragile yet unique diversity of life forms.

Same sex behaviour occurs in over 130 species of birds, and in other species as well. In the Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), for example, up to 31% of pairs are female–female in some populations, and up to 20% of pairings in graylag geese (Anser anser) are male–male. A single explanation of homosexual behaviour in animals may not be possible, because thinking in such terms in the animal realm might not make much sense. Birds may engage in homosexual behaviour to practice courtship displays, reduce social tension or solidify dominance. Or the behaviour could help them to form alliances, share care-taking responsibilities or gain access to resources. 

Taking a look at nature should make accepting and embracing diversity a simple matter. The next step (surely more advanced) is to combine biology and sociology. If we manage to do so, we could actually create societies that value and respect diversity. In this day, which celebrates our colours and our differences, we would like to support and acknowledge the work of some great people who are putting lots of effort in making sure the world of birding (and ultimately of nature conservation) is more LGBTQI+ friendly, and overall, more friendly to any minority: Gay Birders Club (UK), Gay Birders of North America, The Queer Nature among others, many of which I am surely unaware. One of our USA partners Audubon is organizing bird walks and other LGBTQ inclusive activities to make sure minorities, such as the LGBTQI+ community, enjoy safe and inclusive spaces while being outdoors in nature. At Birdlife, we are committed to make sure that everyone shines, no matter which colours he/she/they wear: we invite you to join us just by observing and nurturing the great natural and human diversity that surrounds us.