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Thread subject: Cardinal question (Celeste?)
Name Date Message
Shelley 09/05/11 08:20 pm I just finished watching a cardinal couple at my feeder and on the ground under it. The female was most at the feeder, the male, on the ground. He was totally bald! The rest of him was a healthy red but his head was devoid of any feathers at all, no crest, nada, just brown fuzz. He looked otherwise fine and she looked fine. I know this can sometimes happen but it is rather startling to see. Have you seen it before? I wonder if this is the same couple that often come around in early morning and early evening. Probably, but this is the first time I am seeing this phenomenon.
martyc35 09/05/11 08:42 pm lots reported on Google, but I don't know the cause.
Pamela 09/05/11 09:03 pm I realize you are waiting for Celeste to reply, but bald American Cardinals have appeared at our feeders for three or four years and had me in a quandry too, Shelley. After inquiring, we were told it was mites.
Here is an article that might be helpful until Celeste replies. ARTICLE
Celeste 09/06/11 03:59 am "Mr. C" our long time Cardinal friend, suffers from this malady. Two seasons ago he lost every feather in his head from March through the summer, looking quite reptilian, when suddenly to our delight he grew feathers again in September for last winter. From what I could find, including an account of someone from the 40's, losing feathers as early as March was probably some sort of malady caused by mites.
We easily identify "Mr. C", as he never grew feathers completely in the neck area and his crest was never the same. He kept feathers almost through the whole summer this year, however, he is looking rather bedraggled lately and is starting to molt. Pamela's article is what I would have posted, to describe this time of year in Cardinals.

Here's another one which describes "my" Mr. C and even Jays, who lose feathers "off season" like Mr. C did March 2010. I wondered how he would attract a mate last summer, but he most certainly did as last summer was my first time experiencing how devoted the male Cardinal is in feeding his chicks, even after they know how to fly. Mr. C continues to feed many chicks this summer. I read somewhere that Cardinals can have up to 3 clutches per season. I have many descendants of Mr. C all over my yard. The other day he had 3 chicks on my window sill, begging to be fed. He is an excellent "father". I have never seen the female, btw, feed the chicks. It's always Mr. C.

Though very shy, the Cardinals in my yard have their way of letting us know they want seed. Mr. C is less shy and is willing to wait in a bush under the feeder while we fill the feeder. Cardinals eat very early in the morning, and also like to eat at dusk before they retire. I read once that with great patience, it is possible to have a Cardinal eat out of one's hand.


Victorians were known to keep Cardinals as "pets"..
"In the 1800s Cardinals were much-sought-after cage birds highly valued for their color and song. Thousands were trapped in the south in the winter and sent to northern markets, and thousands more were sent to Europe. This trade ceased, fortunately, with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918."
Shelley 09/06/11 06:50 am Thanks everyone. Yes, this couple are often the first I hear (and see) in the early morning and last ones in the last dusk light. I just love them. I don't think I have ever seen any of their chicks, I have no idea where they nest but they are always together when they visit me. Yesterday was the first time I have noticed his head.

Thankfully, this *male pattern baldness* doesn't seem to affect the rest of their health or their bodies. I am pretty fastidious about keeping my feeders clean and seed, fresh. I put clean water in the birdbath at least once per day, often more than that and keeping hte birdbath clean. So hopefully whatever mites they've contracted, didn't come from my house. It is sad to see, though. I haven't noticed this phenomenon on any other birds that visit
martyc35 09/06/11 01:32 pm I loved your essay on cardinals, Celeste, and your obvious love for these birds.

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