Pyrrhuloxia: the Gray Cardinal

Pyrrhuloxia: the Gray Cardinal

(Cardinalis sinuatus)

Similar to the female and juvenile Northern Cardinal, the Pyrrhuloxia's thick, strongly curved, parrot-like orange-yellow bill helps identify it. The male is 7-1/2 to 8-1/2 inches long and is grey overall, with red on the face, crest, wings, tail and underparts. The female shows little or no red; the bill is a dull yellow. This bird is fairly common in thorny brush and mesquite thickets of dry streambeds, desert, woodland edges and ranchlands. The song is a liquid whistle, thinner and shorter than the song of the Northern Cardinal. The call is a sharp "chink". Pyrrhuloxia: the Gray Cardinal

In a loosely built cup of grass, twigs, and bark strips concealed in dense, thorny bush, 3 or 4 white eggs, lightly speckled with brown, are laid.

The Pyrrhuloxia is a resident from Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southern Texas southward. It is casual to southeastern California.

These birds feed on seeds and insects and benefit cotton fields by destroying great numbers of cotton worms and weevils. When approached, a pair will fly up to a high watch post, erect their crests, and sound a loud alarm. The name Pyrrhuloxia comes from Latin and Greek words meaning "bullfinch with a crooked bill." Some feel it would be more appropriate to call it the Gray Cardinal.