Cardinals are admired for their bright, red-colored feathers and behavioral traits. But do cardinals only exist in red colors? Or are all cardinals red? What do you think?
Well, male northern cardinals sport red feathers while females boast pale brown plumage. But, apart from these colors, cardinals are also available in yellow, white, golden, or brown colors. That means all cardinals aren’t red.
But have you ever wondered why these cardinals have varied colored feathers? What causes their plumage to turn different colors? We will reveal all these answers to these questions in this content. So, let’s read.
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Why Are Some Cardinals Not Red?
Cardinals get their bright red-colored plumage by consuming carotenoid-rich seeds and fruits like berries.
Hence, they can’t develop vibrant red-colored feathers if they don’t consume food packed with carotenoids.
And this is the reason you see less brilliantly colored cardinals out in the woods; they lack carotenoid substances in their bodies.
The Variation In Their Red Color Shades: What Does It Mean?
Although northern male cardinals are famous for their red plumage, not all male cardinals always sport bright red feathers.
Some cardinals boast a bright, vibrant red plumage, while others contain rusty red-colored feathers. So what does this color variation mean?
Scientists believe that the brighter the red color, the higher the quality of the bird’s diet. In other words, those cardinals with brighter plumage are likely getting more or better quality food than those with duller plumage.
Now let’s talk about the facilities and disadvantages cardinals get according to their red plumage shade.
Why Are Some Cardinals Red And Some Brown?
Cardinals get their plumage colors with the help of three naturally occurring chemical compounds: carotenoids, melanin, and porphyrins.
Basically, carotenoids play a vital role in helping cardinals grow red feathers. On the contrary, melanin gives birds black, brown, and buff hues, and porphyrin help birdies achieve brown-colored feathers.
That means when you spot a red-colored cardinal, you need to understand it has the necessary amount of carotenoids in its body.
This same principle goes for the brown-colored cardinal, which might have a comparatively higher amount of porphyrin and melanin than carotenoids in its body.
Benefits Cardinals Get For Featuring Red-Colored Plumage:
Female cardinals always consider the bright, red-colored male cardinals over other colored cardinals when it comes to mating.
It’s because female birds contemplate red male cardinals fit and healthy and believe that these birds can provide them with food and shelter and protect their nests and hatchlings from predators.
On the contrary, male cardinals with a dull shade of feathers face difficulties finding mates. Female cardinals avoid these birds thinking they are weak and incompetent to provide healthy food and parental care.
However, the correlation between cardinals’ plumage colors and fitness isn’t always true. For example, some cardinals often drink nectar, filled with a high amount of carotenoids and a low amount of nutrients and minerals.
Thus, cardinals can develop bright, red-colored feathers by drinking such honeysuckle, yet they won’t be fit and healthy.
Again, some cardinals eat sunflower seeds, which are high in nutrients but low in carotenoids.
Consequently, cardinals develop dull-colored feathers yet remain healthy and fit. In short, their feathers’ colors can’t signify their health conditions.
How Long Does It Take For A Cardinal To Turn Red?
As you know, cardinals tend to have pink skin with gray scaling in their offspring phase; they take around 12 months to develop red-colored plumage with the help of molting.
What Makes Some Cardinals Redder?
Cardinals gain red feathers with the help of pigment molecules called yellow carotenoids. They get this substance by eating seeds and fruit. Once they receive this chemical from food sources, they later transform it from yellow to red, resulting in redder plumage.
Do Male Cardinals Turn Brown?
No, male cardinals do not turn brown. Carotenoids produce their red plumage; hence, if a cardinal lacks these pigment molecules, his plumage will gradually fade to a duller red. But it won’t ever turn brown.
Are There Cardinals That Aren’t Red?
Yes, there are. These birdies exist in yellow, white, golden, or brown colors. Some people believe there are blue cardinals as well. But in reality, such colored cardinals don’t exist.
Are Baby Male Cardinals Born Red?
No, they aren’t born red. Since birth, all northern male cardinal offspring tend to have pink skin with gray scaling. With time, they develop red-colored plumage through molting.
Cardinals are cute, adorable bird species that come with a wide variety of colored plumage. But they are mostly known for their red feathers. However, next time you spot any cardinal with other colored plumage, you need to understand that it lacks carotenoids.
Hence, if possible, you can provide them with carotenoid-rich food that we have already mentioned to help those birdies lead their lives to the fullest. That’s all for this content; we will come up with another exciting one; until then, you can follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter.
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