Exploring Nature: Yellow Cardinal

The yellow cardinal is the same species as the common red cardinal but carries a genetic mutation that causes it to have bright yellow feathers instead of the usual brilliant red. PHOTO BY RON KNIGHT

You never know what bird will show up in your backyard.

Just consider Charlie Stephenson, a lady who maintains a seed feeder in Alabaster, Georgia. She recently spotted a bright yellow cardinal chowing down.

“I was looking out the window and I saw it eating,” she said. “I realized it was a cardinal and I ran to get my camera. I managed to get a quick shot before it flew up on a high branch.”

Stephenson contacted Auburn University biologist Geoffrey Hill, who dropped by and confirmed the bird was a common cardinal – usually a very red bird. He explained this particular bird carried a genetic mutation that caused its normally brilliant red feathers to be a bright yellow instead.

Stephenson did what everyone seems to do these days, posted the bird’s picture on Facebook. She did not give out her address but did invite a local newspaper photographer to come over. He did so and was quoted as saying, “It kind of took my breath away a little bit.”

The yellow cardinal has been described as a “one in a million” mutation. It is not the same as the endangered yellow cardinal found in South America. While yellow, that cardinal also has black and white markings and a slight greenish tinge. Stephenson’s bird is an overall mustard-colored yellow.

So keep an eye out – you just never know.

San Marcos Daily Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666