Male birds eat poison to attract females

FRANZ KOVACS

Male birds eat poison to attract females

Much akin to the behavior of some binge-drinking college students, certain male birds intentionally consume poison in order to attract females. Especially during mating season, great bustards (Otis tarda) eat certain toxic species of blister beetles to prove how tough and healthy they are. Scientists have discovered that it’s not just bravado; the toxins from the beetles also kill parasites that live in the birds’ reproductive orifice known as the cloaca, researchers report today in PLOS ONE. The cloaca, which is also used for defecating, is then rigorously inspected by the female (seen above). The male’s white plumage is thought to make this examination easier, as the darker orifice stands out against the bright feathers. If the female deems him to be low enough in parasites thanks to all the poisonous beetles he’s been slugging down, the pair will mate. Ah, romance.

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