An “extremely rare” half-female, half-male bird was photographed — in a sighting that has only been made once over 100 years ago.
Zoologist and professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand Hamish Spencer had been on vacation in Colombia when amateur ornithologist John Murillo saw a hardly-seen bird known as a green honeycreeper.
However, there was something highly unusual about this particular green honeycreeper bird.
Typically, male green honeycreepers are predominantly blue in color. Meanwhile, female green honeycreepers have vibrantly green coloring. But this observed bird had both colors.
The striking footage and photos of the green honeycreeper show a bird with typical male, blue plumage on the right side of its body and standard female, green plumage on its left.
Biologist Spencer determined that this highly unique bird is actually a bilateral gynandromorph which has two sexes split down the midline. The green honeycreeper has one side of the body male, and another side female.
The incredible images of the rare honeycreeper were taken by Murillo last year. However, the photographs were only recently released in a report by scientists published in the Journal of Field Ornithology.
A Sighting Many Birdwatchers Will Never Witness
In a press release, Spencer said that most birdwatchers go their whole lives without seeing a bilateral gynandromorph in any species of bird.
And this is only the second known observation of a bilateral gynandromorph in the green honeycreeper species in more than 100 years.
The biologist said that Murillo’s photos are “arguably the best of a wild bilateral gynandromorphic bird of any species ever.”
“Many birdwatchers could go their whole lives and not see a bilateral gynandromorph in any species of bird. The phenomenon is extremely rare in birds, I know of no examples from New Zealand ever,” Spencer says in a press release.
“It is very striking, I was very privileged to see it.”
A bilateral gynandromorph is an animal that is born with one male half and one female half. The animal is usually divided down the middle with characteristics of two sexes in one body.
Bilateral gynandromorphism has been documented in other animals including bees, butterflies, spiders, and stick insects. Cardinals and the rose-breasted grosbeak have also been documented with this division, but bilateral gynandromorphs are believed to be rare.
Image credits: All photos by John Murillo.