One of the most iconic birds in North America is the cardinal, with its distinctive crest and bright red plumage. However, a rare cardinal recently spotted in Gainesville, Florida, stands out in a very different way: he is bright yellow, an extremely rare occurrence.
In a wooded area near the University of Florida campus, Karen Devens of Nature Queen Photography snapped striking photos of the unique bird. According to the South Florida Wildlands Association, the bird’s unusual appearance is the result of a genetic mutation that occurs once in a million.
According to USA Today, there are 15 million red cardinals in the eastern United States; however, there are only 10-15 yellow cardinals.
Even local bird experts were stunned by the sight.
Andy Kratter, the ornithology collections manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told USA Today he had seen thousands of cardinals. “I have never seen a yellow cardinal before.”
University of Florida professor Mark Hostetler explained that the yellow plumage is caused by carotenoid pigments in the seeds and grains the cardinals eat. In their bodies, these pigments are usually converted to red by an enzyme. It is a rare genetic mutation, affecting fewer than one in a million. However, these unique cardinals lack that enzyme, resulting in a yellow color.
It’s not the first time a yellow cardinal has become a celebrity in recent years: a cardinal dubbed “Sunny” was spotted in Florida earlier this year.
What an adorable bird! That’s an absolutely stunning cardinal – we’ve never seen anything like it 💛
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