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Study investigates interbreeding among threatened coastal birds

Researchers from the North Atlantic LCC funded Salt Marsh Habitat & Avian Research Program have published a study on hybridization among coastal birds that are considered high priorities for conservation.
Study investigates interbreeding among threatened coastal birds

Jeanna Mielcarek/UConn SHARP

Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow are closely related sparrow species with dwindling populations, so it may come as no surprise that in areas where their ranges overlap, the two species will interbreed and produce hybrid offspring that are hard to distinguish from one another. That makes it difficult for scientists to know for certain which is which, and difficult to ensure a future for these threatened species. 

The sparrow identity crisis created by this so-called "hybrid zone" is the focus of a new study co-authored by biologist Kate O'Brien of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Jennifer Walsh and Adrienne Kovach of the University of New Hampshire, Gregory Shriver of the University of Delaware, and Brian Olsen of the University of Maine, all members of the Saltmarsh Habitat & Avian Research Program team, a research partnership funded in part by the North Atlantic LCC that focuses on the resilience of tidal marsh communities. 

Read about the Hybrid Zone in the US Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region Blog Conserving the Nature of the Northeast. 

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