Female Cardinal And Pyrrhuloxia

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Yesterday I posted some images of male Northern Cardinals and a male Pyrrhuloxia.  These birds are close relatives.  The males of the two species are easy to tell apart.  It’s not so easy with the females.  Can you identify which species this bird belongs to?


If your guess is female cardinal you probably wouldn’t be alone, but you’d be incorrect.  This is a female Pyrrhuloxia.

Here’s a female Northern Cardinal.  Can you see the obvious difference?


The major difference between the females of these two species lies in their beaks.  Pyrrhuloxias have ivory-colored curved beaks.  Cardinals have red, wedge-shaped beaks.  Yes, there are plumage differences as well, but at a distance the beaks are the easiest identifiers.

Here are the two species, side by side.

_38a0488-copy  _38a9967-copy

Yes, they look a lot alike.  But, those beaks never lie.  The Pyrrhuloxia is on the left, the cardinal is on the right.

Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting.  The first image shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000.  The second image shot at ISO 500, f8 @ 1/1250.  The third image shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/2000.  The fourth image shot at ISO 500, f8 @ 1/320.

One response to “Female Cardinal And Pyrrhuloxia”

  1. tkiiatmindspringcom says :

    They look like “kissin’ cousins.”

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