Monday, March 15, 2010

Hybrid Junco/White-throated Sparrow?

A friend of mine, Ben Sandstrom, is down in Texas doing some bird survey work this winter and has sent me some pictures of a Junco that suggest it is a possible hybrid with a White-throated Sparrow. The pictures here show the bird from different angles and hopefully are enough to reveal possible explanations.

One of the things I've learned and appreciate is that there are a lot of people out there who know way more than I do and are willing to pass that knowledge along. Well, this is one of those times. Is this a hybrid?

Ben did do a bit of investigating and found references to SCJU/WTSP hybrids but it seems all those records are from the eastern U.S.

The whitish throat and white stripe over the eye are seen the best in this photo. If nothing else, this will keep us busy while we wait on those migrants to move in to our neck of the woods.


Kirk Mona said...

Nice photos and a very interesting hybrid. I think hybrids and strange plumage patterns are fascinating.

Rob Parsons said...

Going by the shape of the bird, there really isn't anything to suggest this bird is anything but a junco. If it were a hybrid I'd expect to see some features that were a little "off" but the proportions look perfect for a junco.

The small size (Chipping Sparrows for reference point in the first photo) also argues against a junco X White-throat combo. I've seen one such hybrid, and seen photos of a few others and they all showed some White-throat features in their proportions.

In short, if this bird is anything other than a pure junco with odd plumage, then it's the result of a fertile hybrid of a junco and something else, crossed back to a junco, then that offspring crossed to yet another junco. This seems unlikely, and I believe your friend's bird is a junco with some plumage abnormalities.

Anonymous said...

It would be really interesting to get some DNA analysis done on tis guy.

Kay said...

I have a junco with a complete white throat. Several people have viewed my photo and believe that it is a leucistic junco. It has been present all winter and sure is fun to watch. I saw him this morning. I live near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

2/10/12 - I have a Junco with the slate coloring and a large white crown and no developed black lines. It so strange looking.