Hi all,

Well, the moment many New York birder's have been waiting for is finally

Nick Mason and I have been working this whole semester at Cornell
University (with a lot of troubleshooting) to try and extract DNA from the
fecal sample I collected back around Thanksgiving of last year from the
Central Park "Western" Flycatcher. It took us a long time, but we
eventually got usable DNA! Once we got DNA, we needed to sequence part of
the ND2 gene to differentiate Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatchers.
Today, we got the sequence results in for the NYC bird, and we can say with
near-certainty the bird is NOT a Cordilleran Flycatcher!

In the Cordilleran Flycatcher ND2 (mitochondrial) gene, there are 5-6
Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) that have been used to tell the two
species apart in past papers. These SNPs should be present if the bird is a
Cordilleran Flycatcher, and not present if it is a Pacific-slope. We only
really need 3+ SNPs to tell this, which is why we eventually focused our
efforts on examining the first section (of 4) of the gene (as it contains 3
SNPs). In the image linked to here (
you can see these SNPs are NOT present, indicating the bird is either a
Pacific-slope or Pacific-slope X Cordilleran Flycatcher hybrid.

We never will really know with certainty if the bird is a hybrid, but from
the Rush et. al paper (2009), it appears these hybrids are quite uncommon,
so I'd call this a Pacific-slope Flycatcher with near-confidence. We never
will know 100% if its a hybrid or not as mitochondrial genes are only
passed on through the mother, so the father's lineage has to be inferred.

Regardless, thank you all for your patience, we finally have an answer!
Combining this result with the beautiful recorded call notes embedded in
Jay McGowan's checklist (
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S25958695), I think the case is
quite strong for this to be accepted as a Pacific-slope Flycatcher!

Good Birding,

Nathan Goldberg
Ithaca, NY
Tompkins County


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