Attention Birders: Can You Help Us Determine What's Wrong With These Cardinals?

"I have two abnormal cardinals in my yard and I'm trying to determine what's going on. A male with a bald head and a female with a huge long beak. Both seem healthy and eating fine. Sorry for the bad photos, I can't get close enough to get a better ones.

Mainly I want to know if anyone else in the area is seeing these problems. This is the first time we've seen anything like them. Having two with birth disorders in the same year is concerning. Thanks!" - Leita C.


Debra Corpora - Aransas Bird and Nature Club said…
The male Cardinal is bald because of feather mites. Cardinals do molt in late summer and bald Cardinals can be seen then. A spring bald Cardinal is usually suffering from mites. Birds keep their feathers mite free by preening. They cannot preen their head feathers. Sometimes this can cause an infection and the feathers will drop. In a few weeks, new feathers will grow back on that bald head. The female has a beak deformity. Beak deformities happen with all species. Here is a good article about it from Cornell:

Birds with Deformed Beaks:

Sometimes birders observe birds with odd-looking beaks. Numerous Black-capped Chickadees with greatly elongated and down-curved upper beaks (such as the one on the left) were reported in 1998-1999 in southern Alaska, for instance. Scientists studying this phenomenon have yet to determine a specific cause. Bird beaks are much like human fingernails—soft structures that actually grow at a constant rate all the time. Many factors have been implicated in causing birds' beaks to grow abnormally, including structural damage to the beak, disease, parasites, nutritional deficiencies, genetic defects, exposure to extreme heat, and exposure to environmental contaminants.

A slight malformation may not affect a bird's survival, but an extreme deformity may make normal feeding difficult if not impossible.
Leita Champion said…
Thank you for the information, Debra!
Linda H said…
I have a boyfriend for your female !!!! I have a male whose been here for a couple of years. He's got the bald head and the long beak deformity. I call him Jimmy after Jimmy Durante. ::GRIN::
Anonymous said…
I have an adorable pair in my yard that are tied at the hip. Does anyone know if Cardinals are monogamous?

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