Mercury might cause homosexual behavior in birds

December 2, 2010

American white ibises

Mercury poison is being blamed for causing some male birds to display homosexual behavior. [NatureNews]

American white ibises exposed to mercury are more likely to engage in same-sex pairings than unexposed American white ibises.

Peter Frederick, an ecologist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and his colleagues collected 160 white ibis nestlings from breeding colonies in south Florida in 2005, and split them into four groups, each composed of 20 males and 20 females, said the Nature News. Three sets of the birds were given different levels of mercury in their food while one group received no mercury.

Birds exposed to any level of mercury displayed courtship behavior less often than birds fed no mercury and were also less likely to be approached by females when they did. As the level of mercury exposure increased, so did the degree and persistence of homosexual pairings.



  1. Iceman says:

    Slow news day? I think they should test the water in San Francisco. The city that gives the saying “Queen for a day”, a new meaning.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  2. Spectator says:

    Well this may be serious stuff. I will have to query some of my homosexual friends as to their early diet.
    Maybe it is true that you are what you eat!

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
    • racket says:

      Perhaps one could manipulate one’s sexual orientation by adjusting their intake of Naciemento-caught fish…

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. Citizen says:

    Makes you wonder what the Nacimiento mercury water will do to people in Paso.

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    • danika says:

      I’m in Paso and I have no “curiousity” whatsoever!

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • whatdouno says:

      I lived out at Running Deer Ranch for five years and developed mercury toxicity from bathing in, drinking, cooking with and swimming in the water. It is very dangerous and a concern that needs to be addressed.

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  4. SLORider says:

    Freddie Mercury

    (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
  5. SLOBIRD says:

    How much did we pay for this study… OMG, this would be so funny if it wasn’t that it cost the taxpayers thousand of dollar. What a joke!

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
    • tomjones says:

      Do you generally think that reproductive decline in a species due to environmental degradation is a joke, or just this specific case of species decline due to environmental degradation is a joke?

      Do you have any idea how much mercury we dump into our air and water everyday from our gas guzzling vehicles? Perhaps looking into the effects of mercury toxicity in the environment might be a worthwhile endeavor?

      (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
      • danika says:

        Fine. Then quit your job, dedicate your entire life and financial resources to study the effects of mercury toxicity in the environment as related to homosexual activities of birds….seriously. DO it. Just don’t expect MY tax dollars to pay for it. And there are people who have no homes, food, or even a bed to sleep in and we are wasting our money on bird homosexuality????

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        • tomjones says:

          You don’t expect your tax dollars to pay for what? Again, is it this specific incidence of environmental degradation that you don’t like spending money on, or degradation in general that you don’t like spending tax money on? Or do you have a particular dislike for the study of mercury, or birds, or behavior?

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      • whatdouno says:

        tomjones, the joke is actually that they are worried about mercury in birds, when as you point out it is damaging much more than that. The new “energy efficient” mercury light bulbs are what they should be investigating. For example, every time one breaks it releases mercury into our environment. How about the disposal of the broken or no longer working bulbs. They go right into our landfills which then go into our ocean, which then go into our seafood. A much bigger concern to me than the mating habits of white ibises. Put a little outrage here. They never told us they were dangerous or that they were hazardous when they became waste. I’d rather use the energy personally.

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  6. whatdouno says:

    Thank you so much for this, I actually laughed outloud.

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