Kyle Blaney

Sparrow/Junco Hybrid?

50 posts in this topic

I saw this individual today (May 14) at Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area in southern Ontario, Canada. It was hanging around 2-3 sparrows but I can't find any sparrow like it. Maybe a hybrid between a white-throated sparrow and a dark-eyed junco?

 

i-whMm8Hr-M.jpg

 

 

i-9gdDvvJ-M.jpg

 

i-C9vhNqF-M.jpg

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Interesting bird!  Looks like it could be a junco x sparrow hybrid.  Will look into it a little more.

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Looks a little like a White-throated Sparrow x DE Junco hybrid, maybe a tan-striped white throated hybridizing?  Here's a couple checklists with photos of WTSP x DEJU hybrids.  They don't look quite like your bird but again maybe yours is hybridized with a tan-striped rather than a white-striped which maybe is what theirs are hybridized with.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S9553256

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15746593

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Actually, looking at it again, it really looks Dickcissel-like.  Either like a melanistic Dickcissel or maybe a Dickcissel hybridized with something else?  Hard to know, I'm just guessing.

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What a neat bird! Agree that it looks like a hybrid of some sort, but we'll probably never nail down the parents completely. Most of the hybrid combinations we think we know of are based mostly on plumage similarities, since before DNA analysis the only way to know for sure was to observe the parents.

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Hybrid for certian, what about  first summer House Sparrow and Dickcissel?  Wing and back is simalar to House Sparrow, head pattern and throat along with bill looks like Dickcissel.  Faint yellow seen, I think in eye, malar and belly area.  

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Hybrid for certian, what about  first summer House Sparrow and Dickcissel?  Wing and back is simalar to House Sparrow, head pattern and throat along with bill looks like Dickcissel.  Faint yellow seen, I think in eye, malar and belly area.  

That would seem to be an implausible hybrid given how distantly related House Sparrows and Dickcissels are (not only different genera but different families).

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Actually, looking at it again, it really looks Dickcissel-like.  Either like a melanistic Dickcissel or maybe a Dickcissel hybridized with something else?  Hard to know, I'm just guessing.

Agreed as a guess

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Why are we so quick to decide it's a hybrid? Random genetic mutations are what drives evolution: advantageous mutations, like light fur in the original population of brown bears that lived in the arctic, are passed on, while mutations that that have no benefits disappear. I think that's much more likely than a two species hybridizing.

-Lisa

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Most large-scale mutations aren't advantageous. In fact, they're often lethal, since it's so much easier to break something than it is to fix it. In this case, to be this far off in plumage from anything we know well, you'd have to have several mutations at once, or one with some rather odd pleiotropic effects. The first choice is unlikely to say the least, and the second one seems likely to cause some other unsavory physiological effects.

 

Hybrids, on the other hand, are a well-documented occurrence in quite a few bird families, sometimes to the point where we birder's have to throw our hands up in despair. (Olympic Gull, anyone? Kumlien's?)

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Then why aren't there more reports of sparrow/junco hybrids? Juncos live with so many different species of sparrows all over North America that statistically, despite the limiting factor that eBird is self-reporting, there would be many more reports.

-Lisa

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I originally considered a white-throated sparrow X dark-eyed junco hybrid because that combination is discussed in The Sibley Guide to Birds and the bird pictured there looks somewhat like what I saw. According to Sibley, that combination is "rare but regular in the east".

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I originally considered a white-throated sparrow X dark-eyed junco hybrid because that combination is discussed in The Sibley Guide to Birds and the bird pictured there looks somewhat like what I saw. According to Sibley, that combination is "rare but regular in the east".

I'd lean towards this bird being a Cardinalid, rather than a sparrow, based on the large bill and its shape. I'd be very surprised if at least one of the parents weren't a Dickcissel, given that facial pattern. I'm at a loss for what other species might contribute the other features we're seeing, though, especially the white wingbar.

 

Honestly, if it weren't for that wingbar I'd be suggesting a pure Dickcissel with a pigment abnormality. As it is, I'm stuck at 'interesting bird'!

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I'd lean towards this bird being a Cardinalid, rather than a sparrow, based on the large bill and its shape. I'd be very surprised if at least one of the parents weren't a Dickcissel, given that facial pattern. I'm at a loss for what other species might contribute the other features we're seeing, though, especially the white wingbar.

 

Honestly, if it weren't for that wingbar I'd be suggesting a pure Dickcissel with a pigment abnormality. As it is, I'm stuck at 'interesting bird'!

I agree with TBP that it is a Dickcissel. As for the possibility of a Dickcissel x something hybrid, I don't think it's possible. They are quite distant from even members of their own family.

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Here are three more photos of the same individual in case they help with the ID:

 

i-Xnx5mxw-M.jpg

 

i-7cNbtRj-M.jpg

 

i-Xd9HnV5-M.jpg

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Do you mind if I post this to the Facebook ID group?

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What's the name of the Facebook group Liam? I'm on Facebook so I can post it there.

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Liam, I've requested to join the Facebook group but if you're already a member, go ahead and post it there please.

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I also doubt it's a pure Dickcissel.  Doesn't look right for a melanistic individual really and can't think of what other things could cause a pure Dickcissel to look like this.

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