QUEER VOICES

Meet Denver Zoo's Same-Sex Flamingo Couple, Freddie Mercury And Lance Bass

The two birds have been "paired up for several years" and can act as surrogate parents, officials say.

Denver Zoo marked LGBTQ Pride Month this week by introducing the world to a pair of male flamingos who have been a “couple” for several years. 

Officials posted a photo of the two birds, named after era-defining singers (and queer icons) Freddie Mercury and Lance Bass, to the zoo’s official Facebook page on Tuesday.

Freddie is a Caribbean flamingo brought to the zoo in 1970, while Lance, a Chilean flamingo, hatched in Denver in 2001.

“While these two males won’t be able to have a chick of their own,” the zoo wrote, “they are able to act as surrogate parents if a breeding pair is unable to raise their chick for any reason.”  

The two flamingos are among nearly 80 featured in Denver Zoo’s exhibit. 

In a Tuesday interview with CBS Denver, bird keeper Brittney Weaver said male-to-male pairings among flamingos are rare, but aren’t unheard of. 

Zoologists first took notice of Freddie and Lance, she said, back in 2014. 

“They have plenty of choices to choose from, so we can’t really control what they choose,” said Weaver, whose passion for music inspired the names of all of the flamingos at the zoo. “We started noticing them hanging out and spending a lot of time together. We saw them participating in all those courtship behaviors. When they finally built that nest, that’s when we knew.”

As to whether Freddie and Lance would eventually become dads, she added: “If there is a genetically valuable chick that we want to ensure its survival, we can kind of swap the chick around and give it to more experienced pairs.” 

In an interview with Out Front magazine published last week, Denver Zoo communications director Jake Kubié said the two flamingos were an example of the ways the zoo was aiming to “address diversity and inclusion through telling stories about our animals and sharing the different types of relationships that exist in the animal kingdom.”

And Bass himself seemed honored by the tribute. On Tuesday, the former *NSYNC member expressed his approval on Twitter. 

Other same-sex pairings in the animal kingdom have made global headlines over the years. Last year, two male penguins named Sphen and Magic at Australia’s Sydney Aquarium became parents after they were given a foster egg to incubate, The New York Times reported

The 2005 children’s book “And Tango Makes Three,” written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is based on a pair of real-life male penguins, Roy and Silo, who raised a chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. 

CONVERSATIONS