Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 18, 2010

Pyrrhuloxia, the other Cardinal

Filed under: Birds, favorite places, Sweetwater — richditch @ 10:05 am


Many first-time visitors to Arizona are surprised to see their first Pyrrhuloxia, thinking that is some aberrant plumage of the well known Northern Cardinal. And those of us who are familiar with these birds often have trouble pronouncing its name, let alone spelling it correctly. So, some people call it instead the “desert cardinal.”

That’s a good description of this close relative of the widely distributed bright red bird of backyards and gardens. As can be seen from their scientific names the Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) is a close relative of the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). They are about the same size, and both have large bills, crests, and bright red feathers (for the males at least). But the red of the Pyrrhuloxia is restricted to the face, chin, chest and belly, with a tough of red on the crest. Otherwise the gray feathers are somewhat like those of a female cardinal.

The bill of the Pyrrhuloxia, however, is yellow and rounded (much like a parrot’s), while the cardinal has a large reddish-orange bill.

This male Pyrrhuloxia was photographed at the Sweetwater facility in Tucson, AZ, in the same area as the previously posted Vermilion Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 plus TC20E (2x), Gitzo tripod, ISO 200, 1/1000th second, F/5.6.


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