pyrrhuloxia cardinal

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Fire Color, with a Hooked Beak: The Northern Cardinal

While most know the fire-engine red colors of the male cardinal found throughout most of North America, the Pyrrhuloxia sinuatus (also known as the Desert Cardinal) is no less dramatically colored. Pictured above are a female (on the right, eating a raisin at a feeder) and a male (left, peeking out of a thornbush). The family of cardinals is named for the Northern Cardinal’s bright red plumage that resembles the red robes of the ecclesiastical cardinal.

The pyrrhuloxia however, takes its name from the Ancient Greek word pyrrhos, meaning orange-red from the word for fire, due to its dramatic fire-like plumage. The Ancient Greek word loxos describes the birds other defining feature. Meaning oblique, the pyrrhuloxia has a hooked beak somewhat like a parrot. Also known as the Desert Cardinal, the pyrrhuloxia is found throughout the American Southwest and Northern Mexico.

Images of pyrrhuloxia by J.N. Stuart, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.