Northern Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxias
are always a delight to see. Whether when spotted out in the field or when seen around the backyard feeder, field marks make the males of each species easy to distinguish. The full-body scarlet red of the male Northern Cardinal is unforgettable. Male Pyrrhuloxias, sometimes called Gray or Desert Cardinals, are all gray with red on their crests, faces, wings, tails and underparts.
To distinguish the females (and immature birds) from each other is a little more difficult at first.
Check out the beaks on these two birds. The Northern Cardinal’s beak is pointy and usually orange or pink. Look closely at the Pryyhuloxia’s beak. It’s more parrot-like and usually yellow or gray. The Pryyhuloxia’s crest is usually, but not always, more pointy.
Northern Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxias are mostly seedeaters however they do feed on many crop-destroying insects. The distribution of the Northern Cardinal is increasing due backyard feeders. Both birds are about 8″.