Every year around this time, thousands of birds from all across North America gather in warm grasslands of New Mexico's Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, over the reserve's 70 year history, ornithologists have observed some 377 separate species there. But among the countless birds of a feather assembled this Fall, one in particular has wildlife experts scratching their heads.
In stark contrast to the pale plumage of the geese and cranes gathered en masse at the Albuquerque Basin refuge, a tawny-colored mystery bird was spotted by New Mexico Fish and Game experts last month -- igniting a firestorm of debate among the bird-watching community as to its origins.
According to a report from the Associated Press, bird experts from across the country have weighed in on the baffling fowl.
Aside from the disguised turkey and oil-slicked bird theories, some suggested it could be a hybridization between a crane and an emu or a trumpeter, which are native to South America. It could be a sandhill crane that has come down with a feather-staining fungal infection. Or maybe he — or she — has a genetic disorder that results in too much melanin production.
Despite the temptation to find out the truth behind this ambiguous avian through DNA testing, Refuge Manager Aaron Mize says that that would just be too intrusive.
"Whatever it is, it’s doing what a bird does. It looks healthy and happy so we’ll leave it alone,” Mize told the AP. “We probably won’t ever know but it’s fun to speculate. It gets people excited. It’s interesting. It’s a curiosity and that’s how we’ll treat it.”