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Mystery hummingbird buzzes into Oak Park

This hummingbird was spotted Oak Park last week. Experts are unsure whtype hummingbird it is. Courtesy Greg Neise Illinois Birders'

This hummingbird was spotted in Oak Park last week. Experts are unsure what type of hummingbird it is. Courtesy of Greg Neise Illinois Birders' Forum

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Updated: December 29, 2011 8:14AM

A mysterious hummingbird that was spotted in Oak Park this past week is drawing much excitement from casual bird watchers and experts around the country.

The bird was initially believed to be a broad-tailed hummingbird, a species that breeds in the Rocky Mountains and spends winters in Central America. Experts know of no previous sighting of a broad-tailed hummingbird in Illinois.

Some people, however, are now speculating whether the young male is a hybrid of two different hummingbird species.

The Field Museum will attempt to use the bird’s droppings for DNA testing, which has never been done before on a hybrid hummingbird.

“From a scientific standpoint, this really has potential to offer some groundbreaking insight that we have never seen before,” said Sheri Williamson, author of the Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America.

If it is a hybrid, in addition to revealing the species of the mother and father, the DNA work “will tell us a lot about the evolution of hummingbirds and how they have adapted to the extreme challenges of their life,” Williamson said.

The Oak Park hummingbird was first spotted last week by Eric Gyllenhaal and his two sons, who kept a bird feeder in their backyard just in case any stragglers came through late in the season. “

“What I could see, looking at the side of the bird, looked mostly green and white,” Gyllenhaal said. “We thought this must be something really special.”

Since reporting the sighting on an online forum for bird enthusiasts, more than 120 people have visited the Gyllenhaal home for a chance to see the bird, including David Kennedy, an Arlington Heights resident who caught wind of the news while in Europe.

“I was joking that I would be the one who traveled the farthest,” said Kennedy, who made it back in time to see the bird in person.

A bird bander attempted to catch the hummingbird on Friday to take measurements and possibly a feather before letting it go, but was unsuccessful.

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