Banders Discover Rare Bird With Both Male and Female Characteristics

This unique specimen may actually be able to reproduce.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Sometimes nature delivers some beautiful anomalies. Such is the case with a recently discovered bird that has both female and male characteristics. 


Researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s environmental research center in Rector, PA, found the rare Rose-breasted Grosbeak gynandromorph and took pictures for all to see. The bird is quite a beauty displaying all kinds of colors on its plumage (both female and male) and furthermore, it is also perfectly healthy.

More specifically, it displays the male colorings on the right side and the female ones on the left. “The entire banding team was very excited to see such a rarity up close, and are riding the high of this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Annie Lindsay, bird banding program manager at Powdermill.

“One of them described it as ‘seeing a unicorn’ and another described the adrenaline rush of seeing something so remarkable. They all are incredibly grateful to be part of such a noteworthy and interesting banding record. Bilateral gynandromorphism, while very uncommon, is normal and provides an excellent example of a fascinating genetic process that few people ever encounter.”

If you are wondering whether the odd little bird has the capability to breed, the researchers note that it does. In birds, only the left ovary is functional and the left side of the little fellow happens to be the female side. 

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Now the only thing standing in its way is whether it sings like a male. If it does then it's in trouble as it will only attract females and elicit a threatening territorial response from other males.

Whether it mates or not, one thing that is for sure is that the bird is truly unique. In 64 years of bird banding, Powdermill’s Avian Research Center has spotted fewer than 10 of these bilateral gynandromorphs.

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