Museum claims pheasants are ‘queer’ and ‘change sex’

Published 28 March 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Scientists point out that neither pheasants nor any other birds can "change sex".

A museum in southeastern England is being criticized by biologists after calling pheasants “queer” and claiming that they “change sex”. The claim is patently false, as the birds do not change sex, only their plumage.

The Hastings Museum and Art Gallery has published a leaflet on LGBT history which states that pheasants are “queer” because they “change their sex from female to male”.

“Despite queer behaviour in the animal kingdom being observed as far back as the 18th century, it is often ignored or hidden from the public. One example is of female pheasants changing their sex when they stop laying eggs and turn their brown feathers into the brightly coloured feathering typical of males”, the brochure reads.

The museum is now being criticized for its LGBT pamphlet because it contains outright inaccuracies, namely that pheasants don’t actually change sex, according to research. Biologist Emma Hilton calls this “nonsense”.

– The only vertebrates that change sex are certain fish. Birds do not change sex, she told The Telegraph.

Hormonal changes

The pamphlet points to a study by ornithologist John Hunter, who wrote about pheasants changing sex in the 18th century. However, research has shown that females can change the color of their feathers to the same color as males, due to hormonal imbalances in the bird caused by a damaged uterus. Chickens have been observed to do the same thing, but it does not mean they change sex.

– Often in the process of ageing, female animals can produce male features as a result of hormonal changes, we can also see this in humans following the menopause, but we would not say that older women had changed sex if they have a bit of a moustache, says Hilton.

The museum was contacted for comment, but did not respond as of this writing.

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