Monday, September 12, 2011

Are Northern Cardinals More Red in Texas?

The northern cardinal is a bird that we see here in Minnesota all year long. Even in winter the cardinals stick around giving us a little color in our world of white. So when we were down taking a tour of the King Ranch in southern Texas in 2010 we did not pay a lot of attention to the northern cardinals that we spotted. That was until our guide mentioned that the cardinals in Texas seem to be more red then in other places in the United States. This could be possible. Male northern cardinals get their red color from the carotenoid pigments in their diets. Carotenoids are organic pigments found in many plants that range from yellow to red. If a cardinal has a diet that is higher in red carotenoid pigments it may come of as a brighter color of red. Cardinals eating only yellow pigment will not turn yellow though, instead they will become a paler shade of red. So perhaps it is true that the cardinals in Texas are more red but the ones that we saw, and photographed, did not appear any different to me.


Guy said...


That was an interesting post I had not realized the colour depends on carotenoids.


Country Mouse Studio said...

I guess it's the same as giving canaries food to keep their color. I never thought about it working the same for wild birds but of course it would.

Carol said...

Either way it's a great capture!

Roan said...

Interesting post. I lived in Texas for about 30 years and still visit often. Now I live in Illinois where the Cardinal is the state bird. I don't see any variation in the cardinal's color. Each of your bird shots is amazing, but I must admit to liking the cardinal best.

Brooks Rownd said...

House finches are very notable for this - the relative numbers of red to orange to yellow colored house finches varies from place to place depending on what they're eating.