Experimentally evoked same-sex sexual behaviour in pigeons: better to be in a female-female pair than alone.
Same-sex sexual behaviour has been noted among social animals. However, because of the large number of observations necessary, data from controlled experiments are lacking. In this study, we performed experiments to evaluate the effects of male and female removal in colonies of the feral pigeon (Columba livia f. urbana). After the experimental removal of males, five long-lasting female-female pairs occurred. We found that those pairs could successfully raise offspring in a manner comparable to female-male pairs. Same-sex sexual behaviour and pairing in females is thus a better alternative to postponed breeding or breeding alone without the help of a partner. In contrast, in the case of female-removal experiments, same-sex pairing behaviour occurred in males as a temporary phenomenon with characteristic mutual aggression. Additionally, under a male-biased sex ratio, we observed father-son and father-daughter copulations. To the best of our knowledge, these results are the first obtained under controlled experimental conditions which demonstrate that the sex ratio of a population can shift the social structure and cause cooperative same-sex breeding behaviour to arise in a monogamous species.