The World's First Transgender Bellbird Discovered in New Zealand

This bellbird has female DNA and male characteristics.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

October 17 2012 2:37 PM ET

The first transgender bellbird Down Under?

Workers at Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary in New Zealand, have announced that they've discovered the country's first transgender bellbird (which is also known by its Māori name korimako). They have dubbed it ''butch bellbird," according to the Dominion Post News, because its DNA tested as female but the bird acts like a male and has a mix of each sex's plumage. The korimako are native to New Zealand, so this may be the only transgender bellbird in the world.

Victoria University moult expert Ben Bell, told the Dominon Post News, that the bird's plumage "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 is the first species Zealandia staff have seen showing the unusual gender mix, says environmental reporter Matt Stewart. Among the "trans" characteristics staff noted to Stewart: 

* The bird has the white stripe "of a female on one side, but the dark body plumage of a male."

* When feeding, the bird "doesn't flit between flowers like a female, but moves more deliberately, primed to defend attractive food resources."

* S/he "makes both male calls and the lively 'chup chup' of the female, but these are much louder and more frequent than is usual for females."

 

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