A Rare Half-Male, Half-Female Cardinal

My boyfriend spotted this story in the news. It might not seem like a big deal to those who are indifferent to birds. But I was an avid birdwatcher when I was growing up in Nebraska. My brother, Steve, founded an organization called Bluebirds Across Nebraska (BAN). I read the BAN newsletters and always learn something new about birds.

The story will seem more significant if I show you what male and female cardinals normally look like. This is a male cardinal.

Photo by Chris F from Pexels

This is a female cardinal.

Photo by Chris F from Pexels

It is a miracle that out of the millions of cardinals in existence, the one shown at the top was born with two genders. The normal male cardinal is bright red. The female cardinal has duller colors, mostly brownish yellow.

Many bird species are like this, with the male being a lot flashier than the female. This is especially true of peacocks. The dramatic displays of long, colorful peacock feathers are characteristic of male peacocks.

It is believed that male birds with colorful feathers are best able to attract female birds during mating season. This could be a case of Darwinian evolution. The most colorful males may have survived over the years because they were best able to attract females and generate offspring. The offspring of a colorful parent would be more likely to be colorful themselves.

When I saw the highly unusual bird photo in the news, I thought about gender identity in humans. It is a controversial and often political topic. Former President Trump made it illegal for transgendered people to serve in the military. President Biden reversed this policy and made it legal.

We hear more and more often about people who do not feel comfortable in their biological or assigned gender. A man may say, “I am a woman trapped in a male body.” A woman may say, “I am a man trapped in a female body.” Increasingly, people are taking actions to change their gender. This includes hormone therapy and sometimes surgery.

I read part of the Wikipedia article on gender identity. I did not finish the article because it was incredibly lengthy, complex, and inconclusive.

People who theorize about gender identity often disagree. But there is one thing they agree on. I found their conclusion to be questionable.

The article states that all experts agree that gender identity (the gender that a child perceives himself or herself to be) is set by the age of 3 and will not change after that. It is stated that this is true even though young children do not yet have good language skills.

Huh? I have never encountered a three-year-old who expressed anything about their gender identity. Parents generally treat their children differently according to gender stereotypes. They give dolls to little girls. They give tools to little boys. They dress their children differently according to gender stereotypes. But how can a little kid express how he or she feels about it all? The experts seem to feel that they can read children’s minds.

A future topic for my blog will be occupational identity. I will talk about how three-year-olds perceive their future occupations. Does a three-year-old girl want to grow up to be a fireman? Does a three-year-old boy want to grow up to be a runway model? Stay tuned! 🙂

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