Posts Tagged ‘Shrikes’

Prostitution, For the Birds?

March 18, 2008

Normally we here at the Fat Finch leave current events to other bloggers.  We’re more interested in the long term which birds and nature so often and so well exemplify. But today we make an exception to mention the former Governor of New York, Eliot Sptizer.

In today’s New York Times Science section is a column by Natalie Angier about Spitzer’s prostitutorial flings.  The entire column, which is here, is about the rarity of complete life-long monogamy in nature.  Apparently even prostitution is not unheard of:

    Even the “oldest profession” that figured so prominently in Mr. Spitzer’s demise is old news. Nonhuman beings have been shown to pay for sex, too. Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, researchers from Adam Mickiewicz University and the University of South Bohemia described transactions among great grey shrikes, elegant raptorlike birds with silver capes, white bellies and black tails that, like 90 percent of bird species, form pair bonds to breed. A male shrike provisions his mate with so-called nuptial gifts: rodents, lizards, small birds or large insects that he impales on sticks. But when the male shrike hankers after extracurricular sex, he will offer a would-be mistress an even bigger kebab than the ones he gives to his wife — for the richer the offering, the researchers found, the greater the chance that the female will agree to a fly-by-night fling.

There is some dispute about the Great Grey Shrike and whether it is the same bird known in North America as the Northern Shrike which, to add to the confusion, may or may not be the same species as the Loggerhead Shrike.  The confusion results from the Bering land bridge of the Pleistocene and the fact that these birds breed in Alaska, Canada and Siberia.  We leave that discussion for another time.

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