Followers of the Denver Zoo were left saddened and shocked recently after learning the zoo’s famed same-sex flamingo couple of Freddie Mercury and Lance Bass had broken up their years-long relationship. The breakup was reportedly amicable, and the two male birds still interact, although Mercury has reportedly coupled with a lifelong female flamingo friend while Bass is apparently going it alone in the avian dating scene.
The kerfuffle of ruffled feathers began when the Denver Zoo made a post on Facebook that celebrated Pride and the zoo’s collection of over 75 flamingos.
“Flamingos are extremely social by nature and flocks consist of collections of partnerships. This includes not only male-female breeding pairs, but also strong bonds between same-sex pairs,” the Denver Zoo wrote in its post. “While our famed, same-sex couple Chilean flamingo Lance Bass and American flamingo Freddie Mercury are no longer a pair, they were paired up for several years and acted as surrogate parents if a breeding pair was unable to raise their chick.”
The news that the same-sex, mixed-breed winged couple had split sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ+ and flamingo-fan communities.
“They broke up?!? Why? How does that even work?!?” asked one distraught commenter. “I have so many questions!”
“We all need answers....why aren't they together anymore???” wrote another. “What are they doing now? Are they alright? How you gonna just nonchalantly say they are no longer a pair without some explanation for us all? Sooooo curious.”
The Denver Zoo took to Facebook the following day to soothe the ruffled feathers of the flock of fans, offering a primer on the love and relationships of flamingos.
“Please rest assured that both Freddie and Lance are in good health, weren’t separated and their break up was amicable,” the Denver Zoo explained. “Mating for life isn’t necessarily true for all birds, and our keepers have noticed that some birds in long-term relationships sometimes decide to move on and pair up with other birds.”
The zoo went on to note that Freddie has subsequently hooked up with a 14-year-old American flamingo named Iommi.
“As for Lance, keepers haven’t noticed him in a new concrete bond with anyone else at the moment,” the post revealed.
The Zoo explained that “flamingos are incredibly social animals that form unique and intricate bonds. Some birds are in male-female breeding pairs. Some birds are in same-sex bonded pairs. Some birds are mated pairs their whole lives, some will have multiple partners in their lifetime and others won’t have a mate at all.”
Same-sex partnerships are not entirely uncommon in the animal kingdom. Penguins in particular are known for the common practice of partnering with a member of the same sex to raise their young. Skipper and Ping, two male penguins at the Berlin Zoo, tried their hand at parenting. A pair of gay African penguins in the Netherlands stole an egg laid by a female penguin in the same exhibit space and attempted to raise it as their own. And a pair of gay penguins celebrating Pride at the London Zoo were labeled “deviant” by one Catholic priest.
The Denver Zoo made clear it was an LGBTQ-affirming environment for their flamingos.
“Our flock allows our birds to choose who they decide to form associations with and we’re happy to celebrate their pairings this month and every month,” the zoo posted. “Happy Pride!”
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