Most Explosive Northern Cardinal Molt of 2008

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The results of the Most Explosive Northern Cardinal Molt of 2008 in Central Park are in. Papa Museum wins the competition hands, er, feathers down.
Image: Bob Levy, author of Club George [larger].

The photographer, Bob Levy, writes;
Note: No cardinals were injured in this competition. Hey, I know he looks like an explosion in a mattress factory but it is a “natural” occurrence.
Also Note: There wasn’t a large number of competitors. Actually, it only included the six males I regularly observe but that does not detract from the arresting state of this fellow’s plumage does it?
And One Note More: Last year was first time I noticed a molting cardinal undergoing such a dramatic molt. That bird was Papa Meadow who held a different territory than this year’s winner. At the time I thought it must be a predisposition of that particular bird but now that I have found another male that has exhibited a similar trait I guess it’s more common than I assumed. It’s possible that last years male changed his territory but I doubt it. I have not read a description of a bird like this elsewhere. I wonder if this condition could be limited to this specific Central Park population? Hmm. Could you let me know if you have observed a Northern Cardinal in a similarly “explosive” state at this time of year.


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Most Explosive Northern Cardinal Molt of 2008

  1. natural cynic says:

    Sometimes you just have a Bad Feather Day.

  2. apikoros says:

    I am always amazed when I see birds in mid-molt flying around quite happily with half their feathers gone… I was always under the impression that a tail was neccesary to a bird for control, but don’t tell that to the local sparrows!

  3. The Ridger says:

    This isn’t a molt (probably) but it’s a startling state of plumage for a cardinal nonetheless: bald cardinal

  4. bob levy says:

    Holey Moley! I saw your bald cardinal photos. Do you think the Bosley system advertized on cable TV could help this fellow? Wow.

  5. renee says:

    theres a cardinal who comes to my feeder out back, with a severe molt, he has no feathers on his little head, I call him my lil red baldy,
    can anyone tell me why this happens to them? is it like old age or something, or do they get a new coat?

  6. Alex Grim says:

    I’m not sure, but I think this photo at my backyard feeder is a cardinal in molt.

  7. Alex Grim says:

    I forgot to paste in the photo link: