Boston Swan Duo Are Same Sex

ByABC News via logo
August 13, 2005, 8:10 AM

Aug. 13, 2005 — -- Boston sure loves its swans.

Each spring when they return to the Public Garden the Mayor leads a grand parade and hundreds of kids arrive dressed as swans and ducks. They even nicknamed one swan duo that never leaves each other's side "Romeo and Juliet."

Only, it turns out neither swan is Romeo -- they are both female.

This happy same-sex couple exhibits all the behaviors of two heterosexual swans that have mated for life, said Dr. Frank Beall, general curator Zoo New England, where the swans live in the fall and winter.

"They build nests together, incubate eggs together and defend their territory together," he said. "They're deeply bonded."

The swans might never have been outed as a same-sex couple if it hadn't been for their eggs -- and The Boston Globe newspaper.

The swans have laid eggs for the past two years, taking turns incubating the eggs and guarding them. An excited public awaited baby swans, but the eggs never hatched.

"Park officials were suspicious and sent the eggs to be tested," said Donavan Slack, who wrote about the swans for the Globe.

Tests showed the eggs hadn't been fertilized. They would have been in the presence of a male. That raised further questions.

It can be difficult to tell a swan's gender, so Beall's team at the zoo gave them an exam and determined these swans were both girls. The Parks Department didn't tip off the public until the Globe asked for the results and then published a story.

Reactions from Bostonians have been mixed. Some are calling them a symbol of acceptance and tolerance, with a nod to the fact that Massachusettes is the first state to legalize gay marriage. Others are calling for the city to buy "real Romeos," male swans for the girls.

As of now, the Parks Department plans to do no such thing.

"Swans do mate for life," Beall said. "If you introduce a male at this point, he will likely be driven off."