Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Eric K. Bollinger


I studied the genetic interactions of Black-capped (Poecile atricapilus) (BCCH) and Carolina (P. carolinensis) (CACH) Chickadees in and near the largest hybrid contact zone in Illinois. Biologists have assumed Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees hybridize in their large contact zone in Bond and Fayette Counties, based on intermediate morphological measurements, plumage characteristics and the production of aberrant vocalizations. In determining hybridization, however, diagnostic genetics may be more useful than any other criterion. The genetic and environmental factors that have contributed to the survival of this chickadees hybrid zone have underscored the genetic integrity of both species. We collected tissues from chickadees during the breeding season from different areas within and near the contact zone. We isolated and compared mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which allowed us to assess maternal genotypes for our samples and compare them with both of the species. After we analyzed the DNA sequences of each species of our samples, we identified that genetic mixing occurs within this contact zone. In addition, our results confirmed the mtDNA from all our samples had high expression of BCCH sequences but was distinct enough to suggest closer to CACH.