Queer Voices

New Zealand's 'Transgender' Bellbird Could Be The World's First


Cases of homosexuality and bisexuality may be common in the animal kingdom, but a number of zoologists reportedly are claiming this New Zealand discovery to be a global first.

As The Dominion Post originally reported, staff at a New Zealand-based Zealandia Eco-Canctuary have identified what they've described as a "transgender bellbird" which has plumage and characteristics of both sexes.

Roughly the size of a sparrow, bellbirds are dark olive-green with red eyes. This bellbird, however, has the white cheek stripe of a female on one side, but the dark body plumage of a male. Meanwhile, its calls have also been described as "mixed" -- it makes male calls as well as those of a female, but at a higher volume and more frequently than is typical for females.

Consequently, a number of media outlets have already dubbed the aviary wonder the "butch bellbird."

"There’s something we can’t pin down," Erin Jeneway, conservation officer at Zealandia Eco-Sanctuary, told the Post. "We haven’t seen anything like this before." Other officials have reportedly determined that the unusual "transgender" characteristics of the bird are due to a hormonal imbalance.

As The Montreal Gazette points out, "sequential hermaphroditism" -- in which an animal had flutter between sexes or change their sexes entirely -- is found in a number of other animal species, including the clownfish. If a female clownfish dies, the largest male will become female.

Wired also specified that while "transgender" birds have been documented in science before, it's the first time these traits have been seen in New Zealand bellbirds.

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