Pennsylvania man captures photo of rare half-male, half-female cardinal

ERIE, Pa. — A Pennsylvania bird watcher found a rare cardinal with two colors that is half male and half female.

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Jamie Hill, 69, a longtime birder from Waterford, noticed that the bird was bright red on one side of its body, like a male cardinal -- and brownish white on the other side, like a female, the Erie Times-News reported.

“It was one of the experiences of a lifetime,” Hill told the newspaper.

I have been birding for 48 years and yesterday (20 February 2021) I had a once-in-a-lifetime, one in a million bird...

Posted by Jamie Hill on Sunday, February 21, 2021

This type of bird is known as a bilateral gynandromorph, said Hill, who described it as “a bird divided right down the middle.”

“It was pretty unusual,” Hill told the Times-News.

Hill said he photographed the bird on Saturday in trees behind a home in Warren County, located about 55 miles south of Erie.

A friend told Hill about the rare cardinal, but the homeowner wanted to remain anonymous.

Hill said the cardinal “behaved totally normal.” But, in theory, he said that the bird could mate with either a female or male cardinal, depending on which of its hormones were active during mating season, the Times-News reported.

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

Gynandromorphism in birds likely occurs when the egg from which the bird developed had two different sex chromosomes instead of one, according to Natural History magazine.

Hill said he has been watching birds for 48 years, USA Today reported. He added that he had never seen a bird comparable with the bilateral gynandromorph northern cardinal.

“This has been the most exciting,” Hill said.