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Hawk species dress in drag to gain mating advantage

The marsh harrier breed of hawk has been found to dress itself up as a female during mating, leading biologists to believe that they are seeking an advantage in the mating game, AFP reports.

By disguising their plumage in female colors and patterns as well as adopting more female behaviors - that is, acting less aggressively - males are less likely to be attacked by male competitors, giving them a better chance of meeting up with females and mating with them, biologists say.

In the study, researchers looked at 36 breeding hawk couples in a marshland in central-western France and placed one of three types of decoys near each of their nesting sites. The decoys were painted to look like a typical male or female marsh harrier, the news source reports.

Typical male birds were three times more likely to attack the typical male decoy than the two other decoy types. In addition, the female-like males were found to take on female-like behaviors such as attacking female decoys in fits of jealousy, according to the publication.

By mimicking the females so well, researchers believe that this gender-bending trick helps the hawks that use it by preventing attacks from other males. 
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