A Pennsylvania birder spotted the bird of a lifetime in his backyard this past spring—it was a hybrid of three species across two genera in a single bird. He’d found a three-in-one warbler. Natural hybrids can be of conservation concern, since animals mating with the wrong species can give birth to sterile offspring or birds that no one wants to mate with. But one hybrid warbler seems to have found love, albeit with a bird from a completely different genus, leading to the strange results. “It tells us that warblers in general appear to be reproductively compatible over millions of years of independent evolution,” Dave Toews, postdoctoral associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, told Gizmodo. “The things that really define them, their distinct colors and their songs, are likely mating barriers, and that they don’t interbreed because they can’t, but because they choose not to.” Birder Lowell Burket knew something strange had arrived at the bird-watching spot on his property this past May. The bird looked like a hybrid well-known among birders, called the Brewster’s warbler, which is a mix between the golden-winged and blue-winged warbler. But it sang like a bird from a different genus, called the chestnut-sided warbler, and had a twinge of the chestnut-sided’s signature red patch on its side. Burket observed the bird a few times and eventually emailed Cornell researchers. “I tried to make the email sound somewhat intellectual so they wouldn’t think I was a crackpot,” Burkett told the Cornell Lab of Ornithology… [Read full story]
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