Tainted Love Songs

Starlings odd attractions

06-01-2008 // Hannah Schardt

A POLLUTED DIET could make male birds more popular mates--but less fit fathers--according to a new study. Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales founds that male European starlings that foraged for earthworms at a local sewage treatment plant were consuming very high doses of the synthetic and natural estrogen that is found in human waste. The contaminated birds sang songs that were longer, more frequent and more complex--all of which made them more attractive to females. But exposure to those same contaminants also weakened the males' immune systems. Researchers fear that this could lead to greater mating success for unhealthy males, resulting in weaker offspring.

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