There are certain birds out there that are beloved and easily identifiable by their distinctive color. So when a cardinal shows up with yellow feathers it makes people wonder why they are not seeing red. It is at least a one in a million chance that you will ever see one of these strange yellow cardinals. For one alert woman in Alabama it was the chance of a lifetime.
Image via Audubon
For Charlie Stephenson of Alabaster, Alabama it was quite a surprise to find a bright yellow male Northern Cardinal in her garden a couple of years ago. She invited photographer Jeremy Black to ply his trade in her backyard to capture the singular beauty of this oddball bird. She has been a long time birderand it took her some time to realize just what it was she was seeing.
Image via Wikimedia
"Every time I watch the bird feeder, I can see him," she said. "The cardinals in my back yard typically come in the morning and again in the evening and I can only bird-watch on weekends until the time changes, but on weekends, I'll sit there and watch for him. Every time we've looked for him, he'll show up at least once that day," commented Stephenson.
Image via AL
Ornithologist Geoffrey Hill from Auburn University explained that the bird was most likely a genetic mutation that caused the food it consumed to turn its feathers yellow instead of red. This dietary aspect could also be affected by poor nutrition. This is, of course, the Northern Cardinal and should not be confused with the Yellow Cardinal native to South America.
"Songbirds like cardinals almost never consume red pigments; rather they consume abundant yellow pigments," Hill said. "So, to be red, cardinals have to biochemically convert yellow pigments to red."
Image via Wikimedia
The bird has been dubber "Mr. Grumpy" and continues to live in the area of Stephenson's backyard. He ahs taken a mate. Female cardinals are a dull live green color. They have raised at least one chick together. There is no word on whether the offspring is yellow or red.