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Molecular sex identification markers for five North American hummingbird species


Hummingbird sex identification can be difficult, especially for juveniles. Accurate sex identification is vital for ecology, population health, and conservation biology studies; therefore, a simple molecular technique, that is accurate with less-invasive sampling methods such as feathers, would be useful. Eleven PCR primer pairs reported to identify sex of other bird species were tested in five hummingbird species inhabiting western North America (Anna’s: Calypte anna, Black-chinned: Archilochus alexandri, Allen’s: Selasphorus sasin, Rufous: Selasphorus rufus, and Costa’s Hummingbird: Calypte costae). The two best performing primer pairs were compared using DNA from tissue, blood, and feathers. One primer set was 100 % accurate and optimal for all samples. The less invasive feather sampling method accurately identified sex and has important conservation application for hummingbirds and for ensuring field-sexing data accuracy.

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Special thanks to S. Oyler-McCance, US Geological Survey for early guidance in hummingbird DNA analyses and advice. We thank volunteers and personnel from our hummingbird banding teams, the Lindsay Museum Wildlife Hospital, several wildlife rehabilitation centers, the Hummingbird Monitoring Network banding stations, the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, and UC Davis Wildlife Health Center who helped us to collect samples and data, and facilitated our research. Valuable advice and/or sampling assistance was provided by P. Aigner, N. Anderson, S. Bahan, L. Godoy, R. Colwell, L. Dalbeck, B. Hoar, C. Koehler, H. Liu, A. Moresco, N. Pedersen, B. Robinson, L. Rogers, T. Tucker, and S. Wethington. Funding provided by grants from the UC Davis Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program Honors Program (KH), Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship (KH), US Fish and Wildlife Service (H.B.E.), Academic Senate at UC Davis (H.B.E.), and the Western Hummingbird Partnership (H.B.E.).

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Correspondence to Holly B. Ernest.

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Hagadorn, K.A., Tell, L.A., Drazenovich, T.L. et al. Molecular sex identification markers for five North American hummingbird species. Conservation Genet Resour 8, 427–430 (2016).

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  • Hummingbird
  • Trochilidae
  • Avian
  • Bird
  • Molecular sexing
  • DNA
  • Chromo-helicase-DNA binding gene