A pair of ornithologists from Western Illinois University spent 15 months observing a rare northern cardinal with gynandromorphism -- exhibiting both male and female characteristics.
Between December 2008 and March 2010, Brian D. Peer and Robert W. Motz made more than 40 total days of observations of a bilateral gynandromorph northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in northwestern Illinois whose condition gives its plumage color a distinctive, down-the-middle split -- male red on one half and female brownish-grey on the other.
It turns out life may be a bit lonely, and devoid of music, for such birds. The researchers noted that their subject, observed primarily near a bird feeder, never paired up with another cardinal and it was never observed singing. On the plus side, perhaps, the unusual cardinal was not subjected to any unduly combative behavior from other cardinals.
A March 2011 piece in DNews about a bilateral gynandromorph cardinal observed in Texas was in line with the Illinois researchers' observations about vocalization.
Larry Ammann, a statistics professor at the University of Texas, noticed such a cardinal (pictured above) at his feeder, and he was able to observe the rare bird for more than a month.
"During those six weeks it visited my feeder, I looked for it whenever I heard a cardinal singing or chirping around our yard, but always the bird I heard turned out to be a normal cardinal, not this cardinal," Ammann said. The professor noted, however, that other male cardinals would try to chase the rare bird away, while the females did not seem to be bothered by its presence.
Peer and Motz's more detailed observations -- "the most extensive of any bilateral gynandromorph bird in the wild," the duo wrote -- have just been published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.