I Refuse to Believe That Polyamory Is Killing Off Parrots

Swift Parrots.
Swift Parrots. Photo: Serguei Levykin/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tasmania’s critically endangered swift parrots are apparently facing a new, serious threat: their recently adopted polyamorous lifestyle.

According to a new study, which was recently published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, there’s a shortage of female swift parrots in Tasmania’s blue gum forests, mostly because they’ve been eaten by predatory sugar gliders. The resulting gender imbalance — too many male parrots! — has wreaked “havoc with their love lives and their usual mating system,” as lead research Rob Heinsohn told The Guardian, compelling the parrots to buck their vanilla-ass lifestyles.

“Usually, they would be quite conservative, boring even, with their mating habits, they are just monogamous pairings,” he explained. “At the moment there are all these bachelor males … they turn up at the nests of the breeding pairs and they harass the females endlessly.”

Heinsohn says the female parrots will usually have sex with the casanovas, often in exchange for food, “but they do it sneakily behind the resident male’s back.” Apparently, this has distracted the primary partners from feeding their young, which has reduced survival rates and therefore threatened the continuing existence of their species.

Hm. I am not a bird scientist, but it seems like polyamory is being unfairly maligned here. First of all, this mostly feels like a sugar glider problem to me, and second of all, these are hardly healthy poly-bird relationships! Anyone who has ever explored non-monogamy — whether in an open relationship or a polyamorous one — knows that communication is, often exhaustingly, key. I’m not one to judge their boundaries, but sneaking around is usually not a good idea. Also the male birds need to manage their jealousy!

Now don’t get me wrong: I do want to commend these horny birds for breaking free from the confines of monogamy. And it’s understandable that their transition hasn’t been smooth! But, please, I beg of these sexual parrots, to communicate with their partners and consider forming polycules to fend off sugar gliders. The future of their species depends on it.

I Refuse to Believe That Polyamory Is Killing Off Parrots