Most of us enjoy the cheery sound of a bird singing on a Sunday morning. Not many of us, however, would be able to spot a bird that doesn’t quite match its song. Each high-pitched squawk and squeak tells a story about each bird’s breed and species.
Luckily for us, Lowell Burket has impeccable eyes and ears when it comes to bird watching. In May of this year, one particular fowl caught his eye. The gorgeous feather coloring stood out to this seasoned watcher as extremely unique, and the song that it sang did not match its aesthetics.
With the help of Cornell University, Burket would discover that this little guy was quite the anomaly.
So Many Warblers!
First, this handsome guy caught Burket’s eye. His coloring was strange, from his perfectly blended wing to his quirky, yellow mohawk.
He immediately recognized that this bird must be a mix of two types of warblers- the blue-winged warbler and the golden-winged warbler, both of which attributed to this cutie’s fun coloring. However, when his beak opened, a melodic sound surrounded Burket. But this wasn’t the song of either the blue or golden-winged warbler.
Instead, the song reminded Burket of the chestnut-sided warbler, adding yet another warbler to the mix! This was a bit confusing. He wasn’t sure that a mix of these three birds would even be scientifically possible. The question stayed on his mind, and he decided to send a quick email to the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Lab at Cornell.
Burket explained, “I tried to make the email sound somewhat intellectual so they wouldn’t think I was a crackpot.”
Thankfully, they didn’t think that for a second.
Enter Cornell Researchers
Researcher David Toews from Cornell quickly got back to Burket. As a team, they went out to find the tiny warbler. Once found, they took him on a little trip to the university’s lab. Researchers administered a quick blood test for a proper DNA-analysis, and they also gave him a small ankle bracelet in order to track his movements after release.
When the results came in, we can only imagine that Burkett could not stop smiling. He was 100% correct in his prediction.
The testing showed that his mother was a mix between a golden-winged warbler and a blue-winged warbler. The father, you guessed it, was a chestnut-sided warbler.
So, what’s so exciting about this three-way combination of species? Well, mom and dad were not only different species. They were also two different types of genus!
Is This Even Possible?!
These two different genera normally never, ever mate. In fact, the two mating is the equivalent of breeding a dog with a wolf and a fox hybrid. It’s absolutely unheard of.
Researchers’ best guess for this love affair is the lack of mating opportunity in the area for the warblers. Essentially, the mother and father most likely chose each other based on statistics and who was available at the time for reproduction.
The answer to the existence of this uniquely crafted warbler has brought about many more questions for researchers. They will continue to monitor the movements of this little guy as he progresses through life.
As for Burket? We just hope that he continues being a rockstar in the bird watching world.