More unusual cardinals

Pied Northern Cardinal by Anne Page, Broad Run, Virginia

In the last few weeks there has been a significant surge in readership of my posts about Northern Cardinals, particularly the one entitled “World’s loneliest cardinals.” I’ve no explanation for this renewed interest a three-year-old post, but I welcome anyone who cares about the beautiful birds around us.

Curious, I poked around and found the above picture on the Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch page. In its discussion of color mutations in birds, it says that in pied birds, those with white patches, the mutation “is called partial albinism by some and leucism by others. The white patches are caused by an absence of pigment in some feathers.”

It’s an interesting page to peruse, with pictures of color variants, deformed bills, unusual plumage, and bald-headed birds, including this sad-looking bald cardinal:

Bald-headed Northern Cardinal by Eddie Eller, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

The accompanying text says that no one knows what causes baldness in birds, but in most cases the feathers grow back in a few weeks. I certainly hope so. Winter could be deadly for birds like this.


Also on Pied Type:

Rare yellow cardinal living in Alabama
World’s loneliest cardinals
A cardinal for Christmas

6 thoughts on “More unusual cardinals

  1. There was a white cardinal posted about on Facebook last year, and people wondered if he would even breed…my thought was, would a female even think twice when looking at him!

    1. I would love to have seen that. Hard to imagine, but I’m thinking pretty spectacular. If he could sing like a male and perform like a male, I don’t imagine he had any trouble attracting the ladies.

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