Birdwatchers in Erie, Pennsylvania spotted an incredibly uncommon bird in their backyard. A couple of weeks ago, Jeffrey and Shirley Caldwell started seeing this half-male, half-female cardinal, accompanied by a male cardinale, engaging in courtship behaviour.
The bi-coloured cardinal is yellow feathered on their left side, and red feathered on their right side, known as sexual dimorphism or bilateral gynandromorphy. The phenomenon has been documented in birds, crustaceans—and butterflies. It’s different than a hermaphrodite, outwardly appearing male or female but having the reproductive organs of both.
Bilateral gynandromorphy is the result of a female egg-cell with two nuclei. Female birds have a single copy of each sex-chromosome (Z and W), whereas the males have two of the same (ZZ). Gynandromorphy like that in this cardinal occurs when a female egg cell develops with two nuclei—one with a Z and one with a W—and it’s “double fertilized” by two Z-carrying sperm.
I found this cardinal story on National Geographic, where the cardinal is referred to as an ‘it’. ‘It’ is not an ‘it’, ‘it’ is a person, just like a female or male bird. National Geographic also refers to gynandromorphy as an ‘anomaly’ and the interviewed ornithologist calls the bird a ‘male/female chimera’. The fact that this cardinal may be able to reproduce is deemed “exciting” Quote: “Most gynandromorph individuals are infertile, but this one may actually be fertile as the left side is female, and only the left ovary in birds in functional.”
The anomaly is anomalous in it’s reproductive capacities, let Spring bring normal offspring.
[image preview of video: bird with yellow feathers on left side, and red feathers on right side, red beak, sitting on branch, in between uncovered bush/branches]