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Is there such a thing as a black cardinal?


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#1 Muensch

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:05 PM

At our feeder today there was a bird that was very dark.....all over, as in head, body, wings.  In every other way it looked like a mature male Northern Cardinal, including the orange beak.  We have a lot of cardinals in the neighborhood, and they frequent our feeders.  But we never saw this one before.  Any ideas?

#2 nola685

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:20 PM

I think it might be a Phainopelpa.

#3 Andy Lee

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:23 PM

Where did you see it? Phainopeplas are found only in the southwest.

#4 Possumbird55

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:23 PM

Where are you located?  A picture would help, too. but the only black cardinal-like bird I can think of is a phainopepla and they are usually found in the Southwest US but they don't have orange beaks.  Did it have a crest?

#5 nola685

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:26 PM

My mind is blank...all I can think of is a phainopela.

#6 Muensch

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:31 PM

I looked phainopepla up online, and by the picture I'd have to say the beak is very different. This bird's beak was very short like a cardinal, and very orange like a cardinal.  Other than that, the phainopepla looks a little similar.  I thought the body of this bird looked a little taller and more thin than the cardinals around, and the feathers seemed a little less dense, but I didn't have a very long observation and my knowledge is very novice.

#7 Muensch

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:34 PM

Houston, TX.  Sorry, no picture.  Yes, on the crest, and it had a shape like a cardinal's.......ie, not extreme.

#8 Muensch

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:36 PM

Houston, TX

#9 IndianaBirdLover

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:39 PM

I suppose it could be a melanistic cardinal, but I would imagine that's extremely rare...


#10 Muensch

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:50 PM

Interesting idea.  I never heard of melanistic, but as I said in another thread, I'm pretty novice on this.  If that's what it is, the pigmentation was very overall.

#11 garzagrrl

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:55 PM

you know, I'm in Houston too, and I thought there was a Phainopepla by my house.  this bird looked all black in certain light, but it turned out to be a red vented bulbul upon much closer inspection.

 what part of houston are you in?  in the heights and central houston there is a sizeable colony of these birds.  they are dark with a with tipped tail, and blood red feathers under the tail,  they have a crest and a somewhat short beak, although it's not as conical as the cardinal.  check out the RVB to see if that's your bird



#12 Muensch

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 09:09 PM

I'm in SW Houston.....near the sw corner of 610.  I'm not sure I'd recognize a tipped tail if I saw it.  I didn't see any red, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. What I recall of the beak is that it was very conical.  I checked Wikipedia's RVB, and the beak is very different.  I saw him sitting on the perch of our hanging feeder, saw the crest and then he stretched and fluffed his feathers.  Every time he turned his head I got distinct orange from the beak, and it looked conical when he turned a profile.  Only had about a 20 sec viewing.

#13 Muensch

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 03:11 PM

My wife saw red under the tail when it flew away, which adds to the RVB possibility, but she also confirms the cardinal beak and size and shape and chirp.

#14 lorell

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 04:12 PM

Muensch. Garzagirrl meant white-tipped tail.


#15 nola685

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 04:33 PM

Try to get a picture of it...we would all love to see a rare bird!

#16 lorell

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 04:46 PM

If you will search WhatBird for Red-Vented Bulbul, you will find GarzaGirrl's pictures from awhile back.


#17 J B Maberry

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 06:01 PM

here's one



#18 garzagrrl

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 07:38 PM

isn't that illustration a red whiskered bulbul? the red-vented is much darker, almost completely dark all over, and at the end of the tail is white.  the crest is the same though.

#19 chris@mtzlplc.com

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 07:58 PM

Last July in Kilgore, TX I saw a bird I haven't mentioned to anyone and still wouldn't have if I hadn't read this.  I suppose it might have been a very out of place phainopepla, but it was eating sunflower seeds.  Kilgore is about four hours due north of Houston.

#20 Muensch

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 09:53 PM

My wife thinks it paid us a return visit today.  The first viewing was in subdued light, and perhaps that effected the viewing.  She said the body and wings were dark brown, but the underbody back toward the tail it was red.  I don't know about white tips on the tail.  It made me wonder if this might be a large-sized female cardinal.  The bulbul pictures still don't match up with the conical beak.  Would love to get a picture of it.




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