Some years ago my husband and I enjoyed a holiday in Wales. After long walks, we would sit down in the evening on a stone jetty overlooking the Afon Mawddach, which looks like a loch, but opens up to the Irish sea. Two swans and one goose would come up to us for some bread. As we built up this routine, we started to question this odd trio. Luckily we found a British RSPB officer to enlighten us on the unusual swan couple with its tag-on goose. Why weren’t the swans breeding and why had they adopted this goose? Why did they stay together, goose and swans?
The RSPB officer told us that local conservationists had the same questions and that, while the goose and swans were ringed, blood was drawn and sent to a lab. Reported back was that both swans were male. This, as we had expected, was a homosexual swan couple that had kindly adopted a lonely goose. We laughed out loud, because somehow we had known this, but how could we know for sure? We continued feeding the swans and goose till the end of our holiday.
Did you know that close to 10% of all species (not only humans and birds) is homosexual? And that we often fail to see that with birds. This is because not all bird species show visible differences between male and female birds- many male and female birds have the same plumage and only behaviour (or a blood draw) will help to notice gender differences.
Recently I thought about my bird drawings and that my Etsy shop is full with heterosexual bird couples. I reflected; ‘I’m missing out on the 10% of birds that is homosexual, and that isn’t kind’. My thoughts went back to Wales, to the swans of Afon Mawddach and I decided to draw a gay and lesbian bird couple.
It was easy to find bird models for a gay couple. All I needed were two males that are known for their competitive display of their handsome plumage during the mating season so that even those with little bird knowledge would get a sense of two males. I chose to draw two male Black grouse, Lyrurus tetrix, not in the least because they are so pretty indigo blue.
Every bird watcher knows that male Black grouse aren’t friendly to other males during the mating season. They put up a big show, a macho display and often fight with each-other. Showing them in a non-competitive way, confirms their bond. My Black grouse couple sits closely together on the same stone. They eye each-other tenderly.