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Researchers able to perform extended study of stunning wild northern cardinal gynandromorph

Posted December 31, 2014

Ornithologists Brian Peer and Robert Motz, with Western Illinois University, found themselves with a unique opportunity a couple of years ago—to study a gynandromorphy in its native environment for an extended period of time. They have written a paper describing what they observed and have had it published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. The observations made by the pair of researchers represent the most extensive study of a bilateral gynandromorph bird in the wild to date.

Researchers able to perform extended study of stunning wild northern cardinal gynandromorph

Credit: Brian D. Peer

Gynandromorphy is a condition where an organism unnaturally possesses both male and female traits. Examples have been observed in chickens, lobster, butterflies and other species. The cardinal in Illinois was particularly striking as males and females generally are colored very differently. The male is usually all bright red, while the female exhibits mostly a mix of soft and dark brown feathers. The gynandromorph wound up with plumage split right down the middle, literally—one half of the bird looks male, the other half female. In fact, when viewed from either side it is impossible to tell that anything is amiss.

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