When I first saw my bright orange Cardinal, I was sure I had seen something absolutely unique. Cardinals are red. That’s their thing. Their redness is their thing. Then I discovered that other clusters of orange cardinals have been found, a bunch down in North Carolina. Now they are tracking them to see if this is change is an actual genetic change. I can tell them it is and it’s inherited. These orange Cardinals have had at least two sets of babies. One set of them are almost grey with shafts of orange in their tails and huge orange beaks. The next set is orange, but has a variety of other colors mixed in. This photo picked up the variety of colors very well. But I’m going to add a few other pictures so you can see the differences.
Some of these differences may be because these birds all have the same father. Cardinals are very possessive. They like to collect lady Cardinals and will fight any other male who flies into their territory. I suspect that most Cardinals are probably inbred, given the possessiveness of the males.
There may have been three nestings this season. It’s hard to tell. I think the mother of the most recent fledglings was part of the first batch of baby orange Cardinals. But we definitely have a cluster!