Leucistic Northern Cardinal and More Winter Birds

Tammy Brown

Leucistic Northern Cardinal

I saw a light-colored bird drop down into the woodpile in brush behind the Hummingbird garden–one I couldn’t immediately identify.  I thought it might be a female Cardinal but it was unmistakably gray and white, not a hint of creamy buff.  Maybe a pale Pyrrhuloxia?

When the the shy bird ventured out toward the feeder, a bright red male dove at it in the grass, a behavior usually reserved for the feeder wars.  The strange bird was clearly not welcome.  I could now see the black facial marks similar to a male cardinal, the streaked feathers of a female, and the white breast of a leucistic variation.  After comparing my photos with information online, I found that this bird most resembles David Sibley’s description and painting of a  female non-phaeomelanic Northern Cardinal, a partially leucistic bird which lacks the chestnut/buff-colored pigment phaeomelanin.  The black facial markings on a female may be more prominent when the buffy color is missing.  Whatever her scientific identity, she is a beautiful and very rare creature, and I am glad I got to see her.

Non-phaeomelanic leucitic Northern Cardinal, Bastrop TX
Leucistic Female Cardinal and Aggressive Male


Female Luecistic Northern Cardinal, non-phaeomelanic
Luecistic Northern Cardinal, Non-phaeomelanic

If you would like to see more interesting cardinal color variations including pink and yellow check out http://www.rrbo.org/in-the-field/notable-birds/odd-plumages-2/ and http://biology.eku.edu/kos/yellow_NOCA.htm.

Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings descend in a cloud of squeaky chatter and motion.  This group happened to perch in a large elm just above me with the full afternoon sun adding a glow to their creamy breasts.  They are among my favorite winter Texans.

Cedar Waxwings at Little Piney, Bastrop TX
Cedar Waxwings
Cedar Waxwing at Little Piney, Bastrop TX
Cedar Waxwing

Three New Birds for Little Piney

Three new species have dropped in this month already!  A Harris’s Sparrow, a Hermit Thrush, and several  Vesper Sparrows.  All three beautiful birds with dramatic brown and white markings.  That brings my species list for Little Piney up to 72.

One Comment

  1. […] I’m happy to say that this pale beauty appears to have made Little Piney her home.  The partially leucistic female Northern Cardinal seems comfortable vying for feeder space with the Chipping Sparrows and her own kind today in the front yard oak.  She first appeared at Little Piney last week, and it took a few days of research to understand her coloration.  For more information about this bird, a female with non-phaeomelanic coloration see my last post Leucistic Northern Cardinal and More Winter Birds. […]

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