Saturday, April 9, 2011

Northern Cardinal - Illinois' State Bird - "Beauty & the Beast" versions

The red Northern Cardinal male is a bright spot of color
 in the otherwise drab winter and early spring of Illinois,
Rock Cut State Park, IL; 3/31/11.
Our beloved State Bird - the Northern Cardinal can be found throughout Illinois all year round. Cardinals can be seen foraging in thick brush, picking up seed off of lawns, perched singing on a high tree branch, in the deep woods of a forest preserve, in open spacious city prks, and at your backyard feeder. The males (Above) are unmistakeble with their bright red overall color and tall red crest set off with its black face and throat and bright red thick bill. Females (Below) are less red overall - somewhat a drab brown, but sports a red crest, wings, tail and bill. Its black mask is more around the eyes and less on the throat as its male counterpart. Northern Cardinals can be found mostly of the east of the Rockies, spreading to the southwest and into Mexico.

A puffed up female Northern Cardinal staying warm
in a Northern Illinois winter, Rockford, IL; 1/20/11.
In the late summer, these beautiful birds can transform themselves into the birdworld version of "Beauty and the Beast." When they begin to molt into their winter plumage, they can become quite hideous, looking rather like they have contracted some unusual disease. The photos (Below) show both the male and female in their molting appearance.

A "Beast" of a male N. Cardinal, molting, Rockford, IL; 9/5/10.

A female N. Cardinal in its "Beast" molting form, Rockford, IL; 9/5/10.
 But we don't want to leave you with these off-putting impressions, so here is one last photo of our proud "Beauty" Illinois State Bird (Below):

A Northern Cardinal, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve, Rockford, IL; 2/19/11.

1 comment:

~Val said...

Great contrast!