Remember those stunning, brilliant red Northern Cardinals we saw adorning the wetlands just a few months ago? Well, I did a double-take when I saw one of them recently in the same preserve.
Now that it’s late summer in south Florida, this male Northern Cardinal, and his female friend (mostly-hidden there behind the Fireflag stems) are barely recognizable. He really doesn’t look at all ‘dashing’ in this shot! This ragged, half-bald look is due to molting, where old feathers are gradually replaced by new ones, a natural ‘renewal’ that occurs in many songbirds over the summer. All About Birds has some great information about the changes birds go through, and why, during the molting phase.
On the other hand ….. Fellow blogger Pam raises a great point in a comment below about how young Cardinals also have this very scruffy look. Hmmmm….molting adult, or youngster??
Despite his name – and the variation in his appearance – the Northern Cardinal graces us with his sweet song here in Southeast Florida all year long. “Northern cardinals have distinctive and beautiful songs with more than two dozen variations depending on the situation and the birds’ geographical region. Both male and female birds sing in courtship duets, and males will sing to advertise or defend their territory.” (http://birding.about.com/od/birdprofiles/p/procardinal.htm).
Did you know that the Northern Cardinal is the State Bird of 7 states?? See even more about these wonderful birds here on All About Birds.