Scientists Discover Bird That’s Three Species in One

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PetMD Editorial
Published: November 13, 2018

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A bird watcher in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania discovered a bird that scientists say is a never-before-recorded three-species hybrid bird—a finding that has been recently published in the journal Biology Letters.

Bird watcher and contributor to Lowell Burket was on his family-owned property in May 2018 when he noticed a male bird with a strange mix of qualities: a singing voice like that of a chestnut-sided warbler and the physical characteristics of both the blue-winged and golden-winged warbler.

Upon the discovery, Burket attempted to contact researchers in Cornell’s Lab’s Fuller Evolutionary Biology Lab. “I tried to make the email sound somewhat intellectual so they wouldn’t think I was a crackpot," Burket says in a press release. "Having the photos and video helped. Within a week researcher David Toews came down. We found the bird again and collected a blood sample and measurements. It was a very interesting and exciting morning for us. A few days later I got a text message from Dave saying, 'You were right!!!'"

According to the release, hybridization is common among the blue- and golden-winged warblers, but not with the chestnut-sided warblers. As the golden-winged warbler population is in decline, researchers are suggesting that females are branching out to new species, to make “the best of a bad situation,” lead author David Toews explains in the release.

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