An unusual warbler was found in Pennsylvania - it is a hybrid of not two, as is often the case, but of three different species of birds. His mother was a hybrid of two species, and his father was a warbler of a completely different, third genus.
The bird was first spotted by observer Lowell Burket in May 2018. Having filmed her on video, he noted that her color was similar to both the golden-winged (Vermivora chrysoptera) and the blue-winged (Vermivora cyanoptera) chiffchaff songbird, but his singing was more like the yellow-capped forest songbird (Setophaga pensylvanica).
Researcher David Toews responded to the report about the unusual find. After tracking the bird, bird watchers took a sample of its blood to compare with samples from other species. Burket's guess was confirmed: the bird really was the result of a mixture of these three species. The mother turned out to be a bird - a hybrid of the golden-winged and blue-winged chiffchaff songbird, which mated with a representative of the yellow-capped forest songbird, successfully giving birth to offspring. The work was published in the journal Biology Letters.
The fact of the appearance of a hybrid of three species is unique and recorded for the first time. However, there is also cause for concern: this phenomenon may indicate that there is a shortage of suitable partners in the wild, which forces birds to mate with other species, confirming early observations of the decline in the population of golden-winged chiffchaff songbirds in the Appalachian region (eastern United States).
© Cornell Lab of Ornithology
“The fact of hybridization of golden-winged chiffchaff songbirds, among which there is a significant decline in the population, suggests that the females are not doing well. In addition, the fact proves that this species as a whole remained genetically compatible long after they changed in appearance, ” - says Toyce.
It is known that some bird hybrids remain fertile and capable of reproduction, and the mother of the found triple hybrid confirms this. However, it is not known whether the triple hybrid itself is capable of reproduction. And if he is capable, does not he look too unattractive and strange for females to choose him as a mating partner.
"This 'hybridization' finding provides a great basis for the study of gene movement between different species that have not yet been observed or described in birds," - it says in the work.