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Hawks’ Forbidden Love Results in a Rare Hybrid

We've seen different species produce hybrid offspring, like a horse and donkey producing a mule. Such crossbreeding usually occurs between species in the same genus. But life, uh, finds a way. The common black hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) normally lives in Central or South America, but one found its way up to the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Complex in Sonoma County, California. She was all alone, and eventually tried to make friends, and mate, with the red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) that live there. The natives, being from a different genus, wouldn't have anything to do with her for years.

But, according to a new study published in the Journal of Raptor Research by Moore and Coulson, after years of unrequited courting, someone finally swiped right. In 2012, a bird watcher spotted what appeared to be a hybrid juvenile hawk following the common black hawk. In 2013 and 2014, the common black hawk was seen fraternizing with a red-shouldered hawk, and later on, the two were recorded mating and tending to a nest. In the spring of 2014, Moore spotted their hybrid nestling.

Like its mother, it had dark plumage on its back and was pretty big. But its head was round, its bill was shallowly hooked, and its jaw narrow; all features more like its father.

Read about the hawk hybrid and why it is so rare at Gizmodo.

(Image credit: Stan Moore)


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