Hybrid Gets More Than 15 Minutes of Fame

Hybrid rose-breasted grosbeak + scarlet tanager banded in Lawrence County, PA, 7 June 2020 (photo with Steve Gosser)

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.

— wikipedia says this quote is misattributed to Andy Warhol

30 October 2022

Two years ago, on 6 June 2020, Steve Gosser was birding at McConnell’s Mill when he heard a scarlet tanager singing but it didn’t look like one. Steve’s photos showed the bird to be a cross between a rose-breasted grosbeak and a scarlet tanager.

Hybrid rose-breasted grosbeak + scarlet tanager singing, June 2020 (photo by Steve Gosser)

The next day ornithologists Bob Mulvihill and Steve Latta banded the bird and took blood samples for DNA testing. At top, Steve Gosser holds the bird before releasing him after banding while Bob dubbed the bird a “Scarlet Gosserbeak.” The bird was slightly famous when I blogged about him on 8 June 2020 at Who Is this Mystery Bird.

Mulvihill and Latta submitted the DNA samples for analysis and received an answer in February 2021 that the bird is indeed a hybrid of a rose-breasted grosbeak mother + scarlet tanager father. His scientific name is Pheucticus ludovicianus x Piranga olivacea (mother’s species listed first).

No one had ever heard of such a hybrid. The birds are in the same family, Cardinalidae, but not closely related. Tanagers are Piranga genus, grosbeaks are Pheucticus genus.

Toews, Rhinehart, Mulvihill, Gosser, Latta, et al submitted a paper about the bird. That’s when the hybrid’s real fame begins.

  • 25 October 2022, artwork on Reddit comparing the two species + hybrid

There are probably more articles since I last checked. This hybrid is world-famous for a lot more than 15 minutes!

(photos by Steve Gosser, phylogeny diagram from Wikipedia; click on the caption to see the original)

One thought on “Hybrid Gets More Than 15 Minutes of Fame

  1. So happy for Steve and what a gift that this bird presented to him! He was perfectly in the right place/ right time and best person for the job! complete with his amazing photography and knowing Bob M. to help bring it all together. An amazing story!

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