Cardinals are one of the most attractive and visually appealing songbirds. Many people are interested in watching and photographing these vibrant birds.
Northern cardinals are widely found in North America and seem to stay throughout the year as they do not migrate.
The Cardinals have been rumored to be found in the color blue. There have been discussions and debates about the existence of blue cardinals. This post aims to eliminate all the confusion and put forth the truth about blue cardinals.
Certain bluebirds look like or slightly resemble a cardinal but do not get confused. The most common bluebirds that may deceive you into thinking it to be a cardinal are blue jay, stellar jay, and blue grosbeak.
Some passionate birdwatchers have reported several theories and truths about blue cardinals. What are they?
Birdwatchers have reported the fact that blue cardinals do not exist. The name, color, or size of blue cardinals is a myth. However, the reasoning behind this misunderstanding is that people confuse other birds as blue cardinals. This is because of the similarities of those birds with the cardinal species.
The confusion may occur due to different reasons, some of which are:
Change in color over time
Difference of lightning or distance
To spot and differentiate a bluebird from a cardinal, you should invest in a good telescope to see clearly.
Birds, in general, have many similar characteristics, whether it is in appearance or their action. This is why before determining the type of bird, you may have to read into them simply because some bird species may look so much like another bird species.
To identify the type of bird in front of you, try observing the bill and the bird's shape first. These two features differ in most birds.
Some birds, like northern cardinals, transition into different colors and may drastically change in appearance throughout various stages of their life.
A bird may look different when it is young, and the appearance or color may change when it grows older.
Northern cardinals get their bright red color from a pigment called carotenoids, primarily found in red berries.
Male northern cardinals are primarily found in a prominent red color, but some cardinals have tints of other shades like brown, grey, or yellow on other parts of their body.
These tints might be perceived as a different color on the bird itself from a distance or at times of varying lighting.
The color of feathers is primarily influenced by angle and light. This may make it easier for people to perceive a particular bird as a blue cardinal.
Most birds have different tints of color on their feathers rather than having one single color on them.
Some bluebirds that look very similar to cardinals are mentioned below.
Some bluebirds look pretty similar to cardinals. Some of these common birds are known as Blue Jays, Blue Grosbeaks, and Steller’s Jay.
Depending on the location of where you detect a bluebird, you might notice that some bluebirds may have features that make them look a lot like a cardinal.
These bluebirds are listed below with features that can help distinguish between the two birds.
The blue grosbeak is also a kind of a songbird with a thick and triangular bill covering most of its face. The adult males of blue grosbeaks are deep blue with a tiny mask in front of their eyes.
Female grosbeaks are more of a cinnamon-brown shade with a blue tint on the tails.
The blue grosbeaks are unobstructed creatures and frequently sing pleasantly while perching high. They usually breed in shrubby areas consisting of a few tall trees.
The cardinals and the blue grosbeak belong to the same group. Some similarities between cardinals and blue grosbeaks are listed below:
|Prefer consuming hard seeds.|
|Males and females are different in color.|
|Sing pleasant songs.|
|Hide in dense foliage.|
Some distinguishing features between the cardinal and blue grosbeaks are:
Male cardinals are bright red, and blue grosbeaks are bright blue.
Northern cardinal’s size ranges from 21- 23 cm while blue grosbeak ranges from 15-16cm.
Northern cardinals have a grayish shade on the wings, while blue grosbeaks have streaks of rust.
Northern cardinals have black masks around their eyes, while the blue grosbeaks have a black mask in front of their eyes.
To attract grosbeaks to your yard, spread grains and seeds at your feeders and grow more shrubs.
A Blue Jay is a large common songbird with a blue, black, and white plumage. Blue Jays are known for their strong family bonds. They prefer consuming sunflower seeds and peanuts.
Blue Jays have noisy calls and are known for their intelligence levels. If you are interested in exploring whether blue jays visit your yard or not, read my post on backyard birdwatching essential gear you should have to optimize your experience.
If we talk about the similarities between both species, there are a few that can be listed.
|Consumes mostly fruits and sunflower seeds.|
|Lay 3 to 6 eggs that are green or yellow with gray or brown spots.|
|They live around the same place.|
|Hard and short bills.|
|Both have a crest on their heads.|
Some distinguishing features between the blue jay and northern cardinals:
Blue jays singing make a bell sound, while when northern cardinals sing, they sound like someone is whistling.
Blue jays prefer woods and high branches, while cardinals prefer grassy grounds and shrubby areas.
Blue jays have a patterned tail, while cardinals have a red tail with tints of brown.
Blue jays have blue, white, and black plumage and cardinals have red, brown, and black plumage.
Blue Jays prefer hopper feeders or tray feeders on a post.
These are big songbirds with chunky bodies and long tails. Steller Jay’s wings are rounded, and they have a straight, hard, and long bill.
Steller’s Jays have a crest on their heads that is darker than the rest of its body. Their head is of a black shade while the rest of the body is blue.
The similarities between the two birds are:
|A long crest on the head.|
Some distinguishing features between a Northern Cardinal and a Steller’s Jay are:
Northern cardinal’s size range is 21- 23 cm, while a Steller’s jay has a 30-34 cm size range.
Cardinals have an orangish bill, and a Steller’s jay has a black bill.
Cardinals have red wings with shades of gray and brown, while a Steller’s jay has a blue and white pattern on its wings.
Steller Jays are known as nest-robbers. They have been seen attacking other small birds to take over their territory.
Throughout this post, we have learned about the rumors of the existence of blue cardinals and what bluebirds resemble the northern cardinals.
A list of similarities and differences have been stated between the cardinals and other bluebird species, which gives clear guidance on how to identify these two separately.
If you are interested to learn more about other bluebirds and their specifications, you may read my post on birds with blue heads.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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June 13, 2021
June 13, 2021