Biologists at the Zealandia eco-sanctuary in New Zealand have spotted a bellbird that exhibits features and behaviour of both male and female members of the species.
The bird hatched in early 2011, and DNA testing then showed it as female, but since then its development has been rather different to normal female bellbirds.
Normally, female bellbirds have a white feather pattern but the chick bean to show signs of the dark plumage normally seen on male birds. It also began to behave in a masculine way, not flitting between flowers like a female bellbird but instead moving with purpose, ready to defend its territory.
The bird’s calls are unusual too. It makes both male calls and the distinctive “chup chup” normally heard from females, but the latter are louder and more frequent that is normal.
Zealandia conservation officer Erin Jeneway told New Zealand’s Dominion Post, “There’s something we can’t pin down. We haven’t seen anything like this before.”
Victoria University biologist Ben Bell told the Post, “It could be due to a hormonal imbalance or it could be a reaction to shock or an incomplete moult — given the appearance and behaviour, any of those would be unusual though.”
It’s not the first transgendered bird to be found. Both transgendered and homosexual birds have been documented before. But it’s the first time the trait has been seen in New Zealand bellbirds.