Can Bird Mating Habits Explain Infidelity?

Love: For the Birds?

Like most things that human beings do, infidelity is something that we share in common with the animal kingdom, according to scientists. Can we learn more about what drives infidelity by studying… birds who cheat?

The Huffington Post reports:

Scientists are finding out a little more about the birds and the bees—and surprisingly, infidelity—by studying the mating habits of our feathered friends.

In an attempt to figure out what makes birds cheat, evolutionary ecologists at North Carolina State University and Columbia University reviewed over 400 studies about the separation tendencies of more than 200 species of birds from around the world.

Their findings, reported in the science journal PLoS One on Thursday, suggest that birds are more inclined to seek out new partners when climate conditions become unpredictable or variable.

The likely reason? The researchers found that birds, regardless of whether they’re male or female, seek out diverse genes for their young when they’re uncertain of what the future may bring. Cheating improves a bird’s chances of combining their genes with other genes best suited for whatever environment their chicks may be born into.

The flighty findings could provide us with more insight into what makes human beings stray, said Carlos Botero, one of the study’s lead researchers.

“Humans have been able to transform the environment to such a level so that basic processes like rainfall and temperature affect us very little,” Botero told But humans have considerably less control over changes in the stock market or other outside economic forces—the human equivalent of an unpredictable climate, as points out.

What do you think—can we learn about cheating by observing animals?

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3 thoughts on “Can Bird Mating Habits Explain Infidelity?

  1. Marc from the UK

    Great insight, I would like to add that as humans we posses the heart and desire to love and be loved. Birds do not, we are unique.

  2. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    To sum it up, the difference between human beings and the animal kingdom is that we possess the intelligence and conscience to make choices that go against our baser instincts.

  3. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    We have consciences, and a sense of morality and ethics. (If these were ’instinctive’ we would all agree about what was moral and ethical, but we don’t. We simply acknowledge that there is such a thing as morality and ethics — animals don’t)
    Naturalist Loren Eiseley called the consciousness of animals their “eternal present.” They do NOT think about tomorrow. Ayn Rand called it “range-of moment consciousness,” because what ever reason they possess only lasts along as the range of the moment, then they go back to being in the present, without thought of what comes next.


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