Pyrrhuloxia-Cardinal Hybrid’s Plumage Matches 4th of July’s Fireworks Theme

Pyrrhuloxia-Cardinal Hybrid’s Plumage Matches 4th of July’s Fireworks Theme

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

The Star Spangled Banner has been celebrated for many generations as America’s national anthem. Especially on the 4th of July we expect to sing (or hear) the Star-Spangled Banner, the lyrics of which were penned by a godly Christian lawyer, Francis Scott Key, while he was detained aboard a British ship during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, during the War of 1812.


So, it seems fitting that red, the color of military fireworks (i.e., “the rockets red glare”), and black, the color of the night sky (i.e., “gave proof through the night”) would be associated with the 4th of July. And, in a birdwatching-associated way, black and red did help me to appreciate America’s independence, last weekend, when I watched a special bird eating seeds from a birdfeeder.


Cardinal X Pyrrhuloxia hybrid

Photo credit: Troy Corman AD2012 (Maricopa County, Arizona)

With a black facemask, it looked like a cardinal—yet it had a lot of black and grey, like a Pyrrhuloxia (a/k/a “Black Cardinal” or “Desert Cardinal”). Yet this bird’s plumage was highlighted with cardinal scarlet, plus it had a mostly orange-hued beak, not the yellow beak of a Pyrrhuloxia. It was not a female cardinal—female cardinals have tannish-brown plumage, sometimes with yellowish tones, highlighted by scarlet accenting. In other words, what I saw was a HYBRID, offspring of a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and a Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus). Such hybrids have been seen before in Arizona, Texas (including one visiting ICR’s Dallas campus), and apparently also in Oklahoma.


Pyrrhuloxia-Cardinal Hybrid photo credit: Janet Johnson (Brenham, TX) / Cornell Lab

For example, the Cornell Lab posts the following report by Janet Johnson (of Brenham, Texas), with a photograph of a hybrid that looks very much like what I saw last weekend (except what I saw was more blackish and less light-grey):

“I believe this bird is a Cardinal/Pyrrhuloxia hybrid. He is a beautiful, clear gray color like the Pyrrhuloxia with red on his tail, wings, and crest, but with a black mask like the Northern Cardinal. His bill is more like the Cardinal, being more orange than yellow. He also has red mottling down his breast like the Pyrrhuloxia.”

What a beautiful, fireworks-feathered, patriotic, dignified, crested seed-eater!

This patriotic post now concludes with a link to a video clip providing a 2nd Amendment-oriented variation of the Star-Spangled Banner, by the Black Rifle Coffee Company (which employs U.S. veterans, and makes several varieties of bold, strong coffee!):

(Make sure the audio volume is up enow.)


Fort McHenry (public domain; aerial photo)




2 thoughts on “Pyrrhuloxia-Cardinal Hybrid’s Plumage Matches 4th of July’s Fireworks Theme

  1. What an interesting mixture and beautiful looking bird. That should have caused a double take!! Thanks for sharing, and enjoyed our chat yesterday.


    • Sure, Lee — and it helps to be nudged to add another blogpost — life gets itneh way sometimes, but that’s no excuse for not adding blogposts abut God’s wonderful winged wonders!


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