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Rare Half-Male, Half-Female Songbird Discovered in Pennsylvania

This is only the fifth of its kind to be discovered.

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  • Scientists described it as a rare discovery.
  • The bird has different colors on each of its sides.
  • Its condition may affect its ability to mate.

Scientists at the Powdermill Nature Reserve at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania described it as a “once in a lifetime” discovery – a songbird that is male on one side of its body and female on the other side.

It was not exactly a one-in-a-million thing, since the experts found a similar bird 15 years ago. This is only the fifth of its kind to be discovered out of almost 800,000 birds that the reserve has seen.

The whole crew at the reserve was excited, according to Annie Lindsay, the bird banding program manager. They were totally happy seeing something so rare.

The bird, which was identified as a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, are distinguished by the color of their feathers. Males usually have pink “wing pits,” as they called it, while female ones have yellow-brown.

In the case of this rare bird, each side has a different color. This was a result of a genetic variation called gynandromorphism. “Gyne” is the Greek word for female while “andro” is the word for male. The word “morph” means variety.

Because this is a rare occurrence, the scientists can’t tell much about the effect of the condition on the bird’s life.

Lindsay said that there aren’t probably any advantages to having the condition and this will surely affect the bird’s ability to mate. They don’t know if the bird’s female side has a working ovary.

If the bird does have it, it could attract a male bird and possibly reproduce.

The scientists discovered the bird during what they call the normal “banding” operations. During this period, the reserve marks the birds they caught with a miniature leg band made of aluminum. The leg band has a nine-digit identification code. The birds are then released again after they get banded.

The bird was discovered here at the Powdermill Nature Reserve at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

They added that the bird is at least a year old, which means that it managed to reach adulthood despite its condition.

Gynandromorphism is a genetic error that happens when an unfertilized egg containing two nuclei fuses with the sperm. This leads to production of an embryo with both male and female cells.

This condition is not uncommon. It also happens to certain species of spiders, and crustaceans. It can even happen to chickens.

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