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Rare half-male, half-female northern cardinal pictured in Pennsylvania

ERIE, Pa. – Longtime birder Jamie Hill knew he’d come across something rare.

The Waterford, Pennsylvania, man saw a northern cardinal that appeared to be male on its right side and female on its left.

“It was one of the experiences of a lifetime,” Hill said about the bird that was bright red like a male cardinal on one side and brownish white like a female on the other.

Known as a bilateral gynandromorph, he described it as “a bird divided right down the middle, half male and half female” that stood out as “pretty unusual.” Hill photographed the cardinal Saturday in trees behind a residence in Warren County, Pennsylvania, about 55 miles southeast of Erie.

He’d been alerted to it by a friend of the homeowner, who wanted to remain anonymous, and Hill didn’t want to reveal the exact location.

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This is an undated contributed photo of Jamie Hill who is a birding enthusiast from Waterford Township, Erie County, Pa., who photographed, on Feb. 20, 2021, a northern cardinal with rare characteristics.

He said the rare cardinal “behaved totally normal.” But, in theory, he said that it could mate with either a female cardinal or a male cardinal, depending on which of its hormones were active during mating season.

A similar bird recorded by an Erie couple was featured in a National Geographic article in January 2019. That bird, which was red on one side and brown on the other, was spotted and photographed by Jeffrey and Shirley Caldwell.




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