Novel hybrid finds a peri-urban niche: Allen’s Hummingbirds in southern California

Braden L. Godwin, Melanie E.F. LaCava, Beth Mendelsohn, Roderick B. Gagne, Kyle D. Gustafson, Sierra M. Love Stowell, Andrew Engilis, Lisa A. Tell, Holly B. Ernest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Species range expansions and contractions can have ecological and genetic consequences, and thus are important areas of study for conservation. Hybridization and introgression are not uncommon in closely related populations that experience secondary contact during a range expansion. Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) in California comprises two subspecies: the migratory S. s. sasin, which winters in central Mexico and breeds in central and northern California, and the resident S. s. sedentarius, which lives and breeds year-round on several of the Channel Islands off the California coast. Within recent decades, Allen’s Hummingbirds have been found living and breeding year-round in the southern California peri-urban mainland near Los Angeles. Ornithologists assumed that the L.A. birds were an expansion of the island subspecies, S. s. sedentarius due to similar but very subtle morphological characteristics. However, the genetic relationships among the three putative populations of Allen's hummingbird—migratory, southern California mainland, and island—are unknown. We investigated these relationships by analyzing variation of single nucleotide polymorphisms from the three geographic regions where S. sasin are present. Our population genomic analyses indicate that S. sasin hummingbirds inhabiting mainland southern California are a hybrid population resulting from admixture between S. s. sasin and S. s. sedentarius. From one perspective, these results may be interpreted as a positive development for S. s. sasin as the growing population represent an overall increase in the S. sasin population, and the expanding population contains a significant representation of S. s. sasin alleles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalConservation Genetics
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Avian genetics
  • Conservation
  • Hybridization
  • Population genomics
  • Range expansion
  • Selasphorus sasin
  • Single-nucleotide polymorphism
  • Subspecies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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