A longtime bird watcher just spotted “once-in-a-lifetime, one in a million” bird.
It’s a rare, bilateral gynandromorph northern cardinal.
In other words, it’s both male and female.
Jamie Hill said in a Facebook post that, after birding for nearly five decades, he saw and photographed the “extremely rare” cardinal on February 20.
Since sharing his story (and photos) the following day, the post has garnered more than 19,000 shares, more than 10,000 reactions and more than 100 comments as of Thursday afternoon (February 25).
Hill explained on Facebook that a homeowner in Grand Valley, Pennsylvania, had noticed “an unusual bird” coming back to her bird feeders.
“This really piqued my interest since I wasn’t sure if she was referring to a hybrid, or a much rarer gynandromorphic bird (a bird that is ½ male and ½ female),” Hill explained, upon hearing a description of the bird. Despite brief doubts, a cell phone image of the bird confirmed that “it is genetically half male and half female!”
“This bird would have a functioning ovary on its left side and a functioning single testis on its right,” Hill explained. “Theoretically, this bird could either mate with a normal male cardinal and lay fertile eggs, or it could mate with a normal female cardinal and father her eggs!”
The homeowner allowed Hill to come take photos of his own, which he included in his recent Facebook post.
It’s possible, Hill noted, that the bird he photographed on February 20 is the same one that an Erie couple 60 miles away took photos of in 2019. Their photos were published in National Geographic, the New York Times and other publications, Hill said. “That’s how rare and interesting this condition is.”
Photo: Getty Images