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)




American Goldfinch, Seen in Penn’s Woods



Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.    (Psalm 68:13)


AMERICAN GOLDFINCH on thistle (Fredric D. Nisenholz / Birds & Blooms)

 The psalmist referred to a special dove having silver-covered wings, with feathers sporting yellow-gold highlights (literally, flight-feathers of greenish-gold).  What a beautiful dove that must be!  In America, however, there is a yellow-colored finch that we are more likely to see, the AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.  It too could be called greenish-gold, because its plumage varies seasonally, from lemon-yellow to a light olive-green.  Goldfinches are small passerines, monogamous (i.e., male-female couples permanently paired, as if married) gregarious (i.e., they travels and feed in flocks), and they migrate to and form the outer territories of their populational ranges — although they are year-round residents in much of their American range (see Wikipedia range map below: yellow for breeding-only, green for year-round residence, blue for over-wintering only). 


For me, the first time I saw one was on Friday, July 22nd AD2016, as I was driving a rent-car on a wood-flanked country road that paralleled the Susquehanna River, in Pennsylvania, near Exeter, where the next day I would speak at the Pennsylvania Keystone Family Bible Conference, in celebration of 60 years of IN GOD WE TRUST being our national motto.  Here is a quick limerick in honor and appreciation of the American Goldfinch.  (Speaking of our national motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, it derives from THE STAR-SPANGELD BANNER, penned by attorney Francis Scott Key, during the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.)


Lemon-hued, they eat many seeds;

They’re social, so in flocks they feed;

Goldfinches migrate,

Each true, to its mate;

God provides for all goldfinch needs.


AMERICAN GOLDFINCH female, Virginia (Wikipedia / photograph)