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The other day I posted an image of a Pyrrhuloxia, a close cousin to the Northern Cardinal. This is a species that is more specialized than the cardinal, thriving in a desert habitat. In recent weeks the male Pyrrhuloxias have been very active during the early morning hours, calling vocally in an effort to find mates. That activity has diminished dramatically in the last few days. It may be a function of the much warmer temperatures that we’ve begun to experience, or, perhaps, the Pyrrhuloxias have paired up and their behavior has shifted into breeding mode. Perching out in the open and calling is a risky business for any small bird in our area. There are predators lurking — Cooper’s Hawks especially — that have no qualms about picking off an exposed Pyrrhuloxia and making a meal out of him. The males, having achieved success in courtship, may no longer find it necessary to gamble so much with their lives.
I was very fortunate to capture a number of images of Pyrrhuloxia males displaying while the show went on. Here are two more — and I’ll feature at least one more in days to come. In this instance, the Pyrrhuloxia is perching on a cholla, one of many cactus species that are native to our area.
In these images the similarities between Pyrrhuloxias and Northern Cardinals are evident. The body shape is very similar with the Pyrrhuloxia being just slightly smaller than a cardinal. Pyrrhuloxias lack cardinals’ nearly all-red plumage, but their scarlet accents are brilliant. As I discussed in a previous post, the two species have somewhat differently shaped beaks.
Cardinals have a much bigger range than Pyrrhuloxias, but Pyrrhuloxias and cardinals share habitat in our part of the desert. The “Holy Grail” image for me would be to capture an image of a representative of each species sitting side by side. Not so far, but I’ll keep looking.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 800, f5.6 @ 1/2000.