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Blue Cardinal: Does It Really Exist? (Truth Revealed)

blue cardinals featured image

There’s one brilliant quote about Cardinals that says, "Cardinals appearing in your yard are visitors from heaven."


The closest explanation behind such a passage is that a Cardinal is also famous for its symbolic meanings, representing devotion and loving relationships aside from being a colorful bird.

There are several rumors and speculations about the existence of a blue cardinal. Some even claim a rare phenomenon of blue Cardinal bird sighting; hence, are there blue cardinals that truthfully exist, you might ask.

Whether it’s a trick of nature or merely a myth, let’s dive into more details to address this confusion amongst bird watchers worldwide.

Getting To Know Cardinals

Cardinals are wild birds with high sensitivity to day-length changes. You will mostly see them perching on treetops or wires during winter and showing a preference for creating their nests in tree-limb crotches instead of birdhouses.

Bird watchers can easily distinguish a male cardinal with its brilliant red plumage; the females have dominantly tan or gray shades.

They have thick bills that are robust enough to crack through even the most rigid seeds, and their colors are vital indicators of mating success.

Some would mistake these birds as summer migrants because of their exotic looks, although the truth is, these cardinals seldom migrate. If you ever see them wandering, they will never go beyond a few miles away from their home.

Moreover, cardinals are seed-eating birds, sometimes feeding on insects and dwelling in dense thickets, swamps, and parks. They use their song to socialize and when courting a potential mate.

The Different Cardinal Species

There is a recent study suggesting that cardinals may have developed into several different species.

a cardinal looking at you

You can identify one species from the other from their genetic profiles and their songs, which comes in handy when trying to attract Cardinals to your backyard.

Here are some of the cardinal species:

Vermilion Cardinal

The vermilion is the most resonantly red of all the cardinals in South America.

Its male has a glorious red shade with a pointed crest and a black bib around the bill. The female vermilion is drab by comparison, recognizable with its overall grey shade, peach belly, a sharp red crown, and a blackish-gray area at the bill’s base.

Northern Cardinal

This bird is among the species belonging to the genus Cardinalis. Northern cardinals are easily recognizable with their striking crowns and large reddish bills.

Its male has a vibrantly red color with a black face; the female differs with its pale brown shade and a tinge of red on wings and tail. You will mostly see them in open woods and suburbs, foraging seeds and fruits.

Desert Cardinal

This bird is a widespread cardinal species but already declining in population due to the loss of habitat.

The desert cardinals have distinct feathers and yellow bills, with the male having a more dominant red shade and the female mostly greyish with grey accents.

They join flocks when hunting for seeds and insects; prefer settling in deserts, woodlands, and riparian areas.

Red-crested Cardinal

This species is often mistaken as the Northern Cardinal, only that it’s smaller with a bright red shade from the crown to the breast and greyish underparts.

You will commonly see them in small groups, foraging the open grounds for seeds or singing a melodious song from the treetops. 

Are There Blue Cardinals That Exist?

Considering every bird watcher's curiosity, most of us often ask, do blue Cardinals exist in reality?

The answer is, there are no existing blue cardinal bird species, although you will see many red and brown cardinals in the entire United States and even Canada.

cardinal couple

Here are some of the possible reasons that sparked the confusion about the existence of a blue cardinal:

Iridescent Feathers

The blue pigment could be an optical illusion, like blue jays with brown plumages and not blue. These seemingly blue-colored plumages are a product of light scattering or small changes in the tiny air pockets inside the feathers, causing an alteration in its light-reflective properties. 

Light plays a significant part in the way we see things around us. Hence, the combination of lighting, angles, and feathers can make a white cardinal appear blue.

Bird Species Resembling A Cardinal

Several birds with blue feathers closely resemble a cardinal. It might’ve led some people to believe that there is a blue cardinal.

You will sometimes hear some birders mention seeing a rare bird in their Cardinal feeder, with a crest and looking like a cardinal, except that it has blue feathers. In practical terms, they merely saw a blue bird that looks like a Cardinal.

Here are a few of the birds that resemble a blue cardinal:

Blue Jays

This bird is North America’s most prevalent jay that frequently graces suburban and rural backyards. It is clamorous and has an impressive capability to imitate other species’ calls and songs.

They fancy peanuts, but their powerful bills are sturdy enough to feed on all kinds of food. It is a species that also encounters light scattering.

Steller’s Jay

Well-known for its reputation as the “Blue Jay of the West,” this bird primarily dwells in forested habitats, mountains, and backyards in western North America. It has a pointed crest and a deep blue shade, although its shade may vary across local regions.

Steller’s jay prefers eating seeds, berries, insects, and substantially a predator of eggs belonging to other species.

Blue Grosbeak

Like the other grosbeaks, this blue-feathered bird also has a large, tapered bill and is often misidentified with Indigo Buntings.

Both species are frequent feeder visitors during spring, but what sets them apart is the blue grosbeak’s brownish wingtips and a huge bill. It breeds in woodland edges and streamside thickets; it likes feeding on seeds, berries, and insects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there different colored Cardinals?

Cardinals are birds using carotenoids, meaning they get their plumage pigment from their diet. The males have an overall red shade; the females are pale brown. There is even an unusual case of a yellow cardinal sighting, which probably got its hue from a genetic mutation.

Are Blue Jays and Cardinals the same?

No, they are not. Blue jays and cardinals are two different species. They belong to the Cardinalidae family, distributed into two genera with multiple subspecies widespread in America’s northern and southern parts.

They both share a substantial amount of similarities and differences, but they are not the same birds.

blue jay not blue cardinal

A blue jay's song has a bell-like sound, while the cardinal makes a whistling sound; they also differ in habitat.

Furthermore, these two bird species share minor similarities in their sizes and diet preferences. A cardinal's diet consists of about 70% seeds, grains, and fruits.

Similarly, a blue jay is partial to sunflower seeds, fruit, peanuts, cracked corn, and safflower.

On the contrary, both blue jays and cardinals are colorful birds; each is captivating in its remarkable way. You can easily recognize these birds with their distinct hues, but clearly, there is so much more to tell considering the birds’ exciting natures.

Final Thoughts

It is undoubtedly noteworthy to discover a new bird species. However, the existence of a blue cardinal is merely a myth. For those who claim to have spotted a blue cardinal, there are greater chances that it's a bird belonging to another species or the light played tricks on them.

As you delve into the enchanting avian world, you will discover more about the close relationship between birds and people. It will also help you overcome identification challenges and turn every day into an exciting birding adventure.

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