Sunday, August 5, 2007

Balding Cardinal

Last weekend I visited the Louisville Swamp unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife refuge. While I was walking down the Mazomani Trail I spotted something red fluttering around in the brush. I got a little closer, to get a better view, but I was confused by what I saw. It looked kind of like a northern cardinal, but it did not look quite right.

The face was missing quite a few feathers. I looked into this and found that this is not uncommon for northern cardinals. However there appears to be a debate as to why this happens. The common theories are that it is a normal molting cycle for some particular birds, mites or other parasites, or other external influences such as diet or disease. Here is a close up of the face area.

No one really knows the cause because there has not been much research done on the subject but here are some links to more information.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post! We have one male this year with missing feathers around his face and last year we dubbed one female Cardinal "Crestless". We thought at first it was because they were molting, but both that female and this year's male have been missing feathers for over a month which seems too long for growing in new feathers. I think this topic is worth investigating further.