Story at a glance

  • A half-male, half-female cardinal was spotted by a birder in Erie, Pa.
  • The bilateral gynandromorph is a rare occurrence in nature, last spotted in 2019.
  • Unusual for gynandromorphs, this bird can reproduce, which means there could be more than one in the area.

If you're traveling around Pennsylvania and think you see a cardinal, you might want to stop and take a picture. It could be the rare half-male, half-female cardinal recently captured on camera by a local birder. 

"It was one of the experiences of a lifetime," birder Jamie Hill told the Erie Times-News Tuesday about the "pretty unusual" bird. "Bird divided right down the middle, half male and half female." 

The 69-year-old traveled about 55 miles southeast of Erie to Warren County, Pa., to take the photograph from his car, parked a distance away, after a friend of a friend spotted it behind their home. While they haven't revealed the exact location, Hill says you should keep "your eyes open for this bird or one like it." 


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The bilateral gynandromorph (a half-male, half-female chimera) has been spotted in Pennsylvania before after all, the last time in 2019 by Erie residents and birders Jeffrey and Shirley Caldwell. It could be the same one — or one of its offspring, considering the Caldwell’s often spotted it with a companion. 

“Most gynandromorph individuals are infertile, but this one may actually be fertile as the left side is female, and only the left ovary in birds is functional," Daniel Hooper, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, told National Geographic

"This has been the most exciting," Hill told the Erie Times-News, adding that he was especially "excited to photograph it, to scientifically document it."


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Published on Feb 23, 2021