An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Two For One

2-15-19 cardinals _U1A8442Thanks to warmer temperatures and a vast increase in the number of bird feeders, Northern Cardinals have expanded their range northward as far as Canada over the past century. Males get far more attention than females, due to their year-round brilliant red plumage. However, the female Cardinal is equally striking with her more subtle tan plumage highlighted with touches of red. Believe it or not, it is possible, albeit very rare, to find both of these plumages on one bird.

Recently an interesting phenomenon known as a bilateral gynandromorph was recorded in Pennsylvania — a cardinal whose body is half male, half female. (For a detailed explanation and video, go to https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/01/half-male-half-female-cardinal-pennsylvania/?fbclid=IwAR2KbCmxuGxtGmKug2eLPS9JD6Vf_KV93OWgy0UsKuMAO-p_2soISJgM400.) Not just the plumage, but the anatomy of this bird is half male, half female. The way in which this gender division exists has a unique effect. According to National Geographic, “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.”

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

13 responses

  1. Ashley Pakenham

    Wow !

    February 15, 2019 at 8:28 am

  2. That means, I guess this Bird is Transgender! Also, in the past ten years here in Southern Ontario, Canada we now how the Red Bellied Woodpecker, it crossed the Lake! It has replaced territories normally occupied by the Red Headed Woodpecker which has been, sadly in decline.

    February 15, 2019 at 8:36 am

    • That is so too bad. Both of those species of woodpeckers are so beautiful!

      February 15, 2019 at 7:54 pm

  3. Bill on the hill

    I agree Mary… Both sexes of this bird are equally handsome…
    Great post, first I have heard of this phenomena in birds… :~)

    February 15, 2019 at 8:56 am

  4. Deb

    Thank you for the video link – amazing!

    February 15, 2019 at 11:46 am

  5. Alice Pratt

    That raises some questions. Do birds have pheromones? This bird is Mom & Dad at the same time. I wonder what the babies think?

    February 15, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    • Hi Alice,
      Pheromones in birds haven’t been really researched, as until relatively recently scientists didn’t think birds could even smell (they can). Here’s what I found:

      “Although the existence of pheromones has never been formally demonstrated in this vertebrate class, different groups of birds, such as petrels, auklets and ducks have been shown to produce specific scents that could play a significant role in within-species social interactions. Behavioral experiments have indeed demonstrated that these odors influence the behavior of conspecifics.”

      February 15, 2019 at 7:53 pm

  6. Alice Pratt

    Thank you, Mary…interesting! A next thought/question would be: ‘how do Vultures detect carrion, if not by smell, only by sight?’ Lots of birds love fresh beef suet & suetcakes & peanuts in the birdseed…I would think they have a sense of smell!

    February 16, 2019 at 8:07 am

    • Hi Alice,
      Biologists used to think birds had no sense of smell, but in fact, many do, including vultures, who do detect carrion by their sense of smell!

      February 16, 2019 at 3:50 pm

  7. Alice Pratt

    I just thought of something amusing….only take a photo of my ‘best side!’ In this case, with the Cardinals, it’s BOTH sides!

    February 16, 2019 at 9:42 am

  8. Alice Pratt

    I thought of something amusing…people say: only take a photo of my ‘best side’…in these Cardinals, case…it’s both side!

    February 16, 2019 at 10:47 am

  9. Robin Worn

    Hello Mary,

    Can I make a donation to NC by check? Where do I send it?

    Thank you,

    Robin Worn Huntington

    From: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland Reply-To: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2019 13:11:46 +0000 To: Subject: [New post] Two For One

    Mary Holland posted: “Thanks to warmer temperatures and a vast increase in the number of bird feeders, Northern Cardinals have expanded their range northward as far as Canada over the past century. Males get far more attention than females, due to their year-round brilliant re”

    February 27, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    • Thank you so much, Robin. Yes, you may. A check made out to me can be addressed to me at 134 Densmore Hill Road, Windsor, VT 05089. Many, many thanks.

      February 28, 2019 at 10:07 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s