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Blue Cardinals Investigated: Do They Still Exist in 2022?

blue and grey cardinal

Last Updated: May 16, 2022

Talks of an exquisite Blue Cardinal are widespread amongst birdwatchers everywhere, often leading to passionate debates as to its sightings. 

Actually...

Many fall in love over its beauty, which has intensified the search and anticipation of coming across the bird known for its exotic feathers and beautiful singing. 

However, if you’re excited about spotting one, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you.

According to scientific research, there is NO evidence to prove the existence of a blue cardinal bird...at least not yet.

Fortunately, there are tons of other magnificent cardinals you can discover! 

Cardinals – Your Favorite Garden Visitor

The cardinal is a gorgeous bird that is typically a bright red shade of color – hence being given the clever name cardinal, alluding to the infamous red of the Roman Catholic clergy. 

Cardinals are typically shy birds that are passive in nature.

They are omnivores and enjoy eating a variety of fruits, seeds, and insects such as strawberries, buckwheat, and snails. If you have tons of berry shrubs and filled birdfeeders with the best Cardinal bird seed in your backyard, chances are you’ll have a few cardinal friends visiting frequently!

Cardinals are found largely in the North and South American regions. They have strong, rigid beaks and both males and females are colored distinctly.

They are typically non-migrating birds, even during the winter, and prefer to live close to their birthplaces because of familiarity within the vicinity and good food sources. 

Are There Different Colored Cardinals?

The Cardinal family, known as the Cardinalidae is vast and incredibly colorful. No matter where you live in the States, chances are you have seen a beautiful sub-species and appreciated the symbolism of the cardinals.

Here are some prominent Cardinal birds to attract you should watch out for:

Red-Crested Cardinal

cardinal with red-crest and white torso

The red-crested cardinal is native to the southernmost region of South America. They get their name 'cardinals' due to their bright red crest. However, not all red-crested cardinals you’ll spot will be a shade of vibrant red. 

Sometimes, you’ll spot these tiny chirpers with white breasts and grey backs. They also commonly eat seeds alongside small insects and worms that usually live on-ground. 

Desert Cardinal

grayish cardinal with red breast

The desert cardinal is usually a brownish-grey shade with a bright red breast. They have short beaks that help them crack on dried seeds. This cardinal is a member of the genus Cardinalis and sits proudly at 8 inches long. 

It is commonly found around the southwestern area of North America and northern Mexico, where the weather conditions are usually arid and dry. 

Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinal with brown torso

The northern cardinal is the most common type of cardinal. If you're a keen birdwatcher, you have probably spotted many of these throughout the year along with gardens and shrublands. 

They immediately catch the eye, owing to their distinct, eye-catching red tones that make them hard to miss. However, female northern cardinals are a little easier to overlook. 

Their torso is typically colored by shades of brown shades, whereas their tails, crest, and wings are much a much brighter shade of red. 

Vermilion Cardinal

red and black cardinal

Found in dry, desert areas, the vermilion cardinal is native to the northern coast of South America. They are similar to cardinals in the northern areas where the males sing similar songs at dawn and mark their territory. 

Vermilion cardinals have the most distinct, bright rose-red tones out of all other cardinals.

They also have the widest variety of the crest as compared to others among the species.

Yellow Northern Cardinal

rare yellow northern cardinal on a tree

This incredibly rare bird is a genetic variation of the cardinal. Its unique yellow pigmentation comes about as a result of a particular genetic condition known as Xanthochroism. 

The yellow color of these birds is due to their inability to turn the yellow pigments in their food into red plumage. 

If you’re hoping to spot one, wear your most comfortable sneakers and grab your best pair of binoculars.  According to experts, there is a one-in-a-million chance of spotting one! 

White Cardinal

white cardinal with light red crest

The yellow cardinal isn’t the only bird with a unique color. Another rare cardinal found in the southwest region of America and the northern region of Mexico is the white cardinal. 

The white plumage is due to the lack of a melanin-producing enzyme, resulting in non-bright feathers, a condition commonly known as leucism.

The Blue Cardinal Myth

You might wonder, given the wide variety of colorful cardinals that exist, "Are there blue cardinals out there?"

Turns out, the answer is no. However, there are many keen bird enthusiasts out there who have claimed time and time again, that they spotted a gorgeous Blue Cardinal. 

So, why is it that so many people believe the blue cardinal exists?

Research shows that several bluebirds belonging to other species are often mistaken for the blue cardinal. However, you must look deeper into birds that look similar, especially from afar, to identify which species they belong to. 

Some birds go through major transformations through their life cycle. They might look a certain way when they are young and may completely evolve physically as they enter into adult life. Just this phenomenon tells us why some people might mistake the existence of a blue cardinal bird. 

The Effect Of Lighting On Cardinals 

While most cardinals are red with a strong beak, grey and white cardinals are also common. Often, cardinals also have different colors in their feathers, resulting in a duotone. 

Because color is affected by angle and light, it is possible to misjudge the color of a cardinal depending on where it is sighted.

Chances are, if these same birds are seen after a while in a different shade of light through a different angle, they would seem to be a whole different color! 

Blue Birds Most Commonly Mistaken For Blue Cardinals

There are quite a few blue birds that look like a Cardinal. While some might be from the same family, the Cardinalidae, others belong to completely different subspecies. 

Here are a few birds that are commonly mistaken to be the mythical Blue Cardinal: 

The Blue Grosbeak

This bird is most frequently confused by enthusiastic birdwatchers as being the infamous blue cardinal, lending fire to the myth’s flame. The blue grosbeak and the cardinals share the same family; Cardinalidae. 

However, this North American passerine is entirely different, with the males a deep blue shade with brown markings on their feathers, and the females primarily brown with blue tails. Like the cardinals, they are enthusiastic eaters, and much on a wide variety of seeds and insects.

Blue Jays

Blue jays are aggressive birds, but their intelligent nature keeps them from falling prey to bigger birds and other predators. They belong to the family Corvidae, commonly known as the family of crows. 

They are beautiful creatures with a large appetite which includes sunflower seeds, peanuts, fruit, bread, and pretty much everything you put out in a Cardinal birdfeeder. They are also found in the North American region particularly in the Eastern and Central United States and South-central and Southeast Canada. 

The Myth Debunked

The Blue Cardinal might be a hot topic around avid birdwatcher blogs and groups. However, there is no concrete scientific evidence that proves its existence.

As discussed above, most sightings are either those affected by lightning or those wrongly identified due to similar-looking birds. 

So, do blue cardinals exist? The science says no. 

But, keep your eyes open! Nature is remarkable, and there’s so much we are yet to discover.

3 thoughts on “Blue Cardinals Investigated: Do They Still Exist in 2022?”

  1. We have a blue cardinal, it is gorgeous. Has the cardinal face but is a sapphire blue. I live in Smyrna, Tennessee. It is NOT a bluebird.
    Jamie Winnett

  2. MONIQUE DUQUETTE

    I’m in central Texas and I have been seeing these blue cardinals. They are Dallas Cowboy colors… I have been trying to get video of them to double check. We have the red cardinals here

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