(noun) A bird of uncertain breeding produced by parents of closely related but distinctly different species. A hybrid bird often shows some features or field markings of both species, but the plumage markings and colors are often unclear and cannot be clearly identified as one species. With careful observation, the parentage of the bird may be discerned depending on the degree of hybridization in its genetic makeup.
Few bird species regularly hybridize, but mallards and other ducks are well known to crossbreed and produce hybrids. Geese, gulls and parrots also regularly crossbreed. In songbirds and raptors, crossbreeding is less common and generally confined only to very closely related species that may have once been considered the same species, such as Baltimore orioles and bullock's orioles or Clark's grebes and western grebes.
To identify a hybrid, look for clear field markings and features and compare them to suspected parents. While it can be intriguing to identify hybrid birds, dedicated birders should be aware that hybrids are not generally acceptable on a life list as either species. Notations about hybridization may be of interest to conservation organizations, however, particularly in areas where crossbreeding may be contaminating the genetic purity of threatened bird species.
Photo – Hybrid Mallards © Maureen Leong-Kee
Hybrid Bird, Hybridize (verb), Crossbreed (verb)