Hybrid speciation was once thought to be rare in animals, but over the past decade, improved molecular analysis techniques and increased research attention have allowed scientists to uncover many examples. In this issue, two papers (Elgvin et al. 2011; Hermansen et al. 2011) present compelling evidence for the hybrid origin of the Italian sparrow based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences, microsatellites, and plumage coloration. These studies point to an important role for geographic isolation in the process of hybrid speciation, and provide a starting point for closer examination of the genetic and behavioural mechanisms involved.