About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Strange Feather Variation: Red and white cardinal

Hello, would you please help me identify this species of Cardinal (?) or bird in the following pictures. I have never seen a Cardinal quite like this. It was eating from the bird feeder with the other Cardinals and other birds. This particular bird showed up a couple of weeks ago and was still here this morning. Thank you for your help, Don & Lois from Crossville, TN

Thank you so much for sharing your observation with us. It is a female cardinal with a feather variation caused by leucism. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals.
Right now scientists describe two kinds of Leucistic birds, pale and pied. Pale leucistic birds will have the same markings, but extremely pale. Pied Leucistic birds, like the one in your photo, have patches of white. Leucistic birds are relatively unusual but much more common than albino birds which are completely white with pink eyes, legs and bill.

Unfortunately they usually don't have as long a life span. It doesn't affect their health but they are easier for prey to spot and have a harder time attracting mates. So consider yourself lucky!

Read more at Project Feeder Watch's website: Plumagevariations: Albinism or Leucism?

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Anonymous said...

We're only 60 miles SE of Crossville and have a pale leuistic female Cardinal too, thanks for answering our question too!

Janes Family said...

I live in central Illinois and have one around my house right now. Thank you for answering my question too!