Not only cuckoo birds cuckolded, York study finds

Female birds can be a promiscuous bunch and some males aren’t above stalking to keep their mates honest, reported The Globe and Mail July 27. New research shows that male wood thrushes make a habit of following their mates around, rarely allowing the female to get more than 10 metres away. And when a female tries to cuckold a male under his very beak he may rush in to break up the pair.

Bridget Stutchbury, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, who has been studying birds in a Pennsylvania forest for years, says that the casual observer would see a picture of domestic bliss. “It looks like the perfect image of monogamy,” she said. “But the male, who’s taking care of the babies, who defends the territory, is often not the real father.” Stutchbury said that attaching tiny radio transmitters to scores of birds and then tracking them on their travels has turned up a startling amount of infidelity. Following up with DNA testing showed that these illicit visits were producing a lot of offspring.

York University graduate student Melissa Evans researched the wood thrush for her master’s degree, Stutchbury said, and found just how closely protective, even paranoid, they are. “When the females sneak away to have sex with other males, their spouses follow them. It’s astounding,” Stutchbury said. “It’s really hard to not think of this in human terms.”

  • “Windsor Now” (CKLW-AM) interviewed Bonnie Woolfenden, a post-doctoral fellow in biology at York who works with Stutchbury, about the bird research July 26.

York Region bids for 2014 Games

Competing for Canada’s 2014 Commonwealth Games bid will be: Halifax, Ottawa, Hamilton, the York Region and Calgary, reported the Halifax Daily News July 27. York Region has no stadium but the region is part of Greater Toronto Area, which does. A recent proposal for a 25,000-seat stadium at nearby York University collapsed earlier this year. But the campus includes a 12, 500-seat tennis centre and the Metro Toronto Track and Field Centre.

On air

  • Thabit Abdullah Sam, a professor of Middle East history in York’s Faculty of Arts, joined other guests on “Michael Coren Live” (CTS-TV) in Toronto July 26 to discuss whether the bombings in Europe have anything to do with Iraq, the radicalization of the Islamic world and the impact of the American invasion of Iraq.