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Photo Submission

Submitted By

Bonnie Utzig

Port Washington North, NY, USA


This unfortunate male Northern Cardinal stopped by our deck feeder today during a small snowstorm. His eyes appear to be popping out of his head. He is missing a lot of plumage as well. I thought he may have been a victim of an attack by either the stray cats that come by occasionally or any number of hawks we have seen in the area lately. The other possibility is that he could be sick or have a deformity.


Eye problems

Deformed Or Sick Male Northern Cardinal

This poor little male Northern Cardinal looks like he is either sick or has been a victim of some sort of attack.

9 replies on “Deformed or sick male Northern Cardinal”

Lori says:

I have a similar looking cardinal in my backyard here in Amherstburg, Ontario! I first saw him in the fall when he had no crest and black all around his eyes (more extensive than normal.) Now he’s back and has extensive white all around his eyes. He looks terrible but seems to behave normally. What is wrong with them?

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Lori, If you notice a bald-headed bird of a species other than Blue Jays (in which baldness is a little more common), it could be the result of an abnormal molt. (Staggered feather replacement is the normal pattern for most birds.) However, baldness also may result from feather mites, lice, or an environmental or nutritional factor. Often in these cases, there is evidence of growths or a scabby coating on the skin. For example, Northern Cardinals have black skin, and a different color skin on the head of a bald-headed cardinal would indicate an ailment, like the bird pictured above. You can learn more about baldness in birds here.

Sandy says:

the Cardinal bird is not sick… I have seen many birds like this one as I am a regular bird feeder and watcher. Cardinals, bluejays and even some chickadees tend to mold their feathers around the neck and had, especially when they feed their young ones. It could be a coincidence, or it could be some mites infestation or just they are missing some nutrients because they are sharing their food with their babies….but I watch them growing beautiful feathers pretty soon after they resume to their normal feeding.

Richard J. Clark says:

Another Bald-headed Northern Cardinal. I have attached a couple of pictures of a Northern Cardinal which has been frequenting out bird feeder. We have had what I assumed to be a couple of pairs. Its behavior seems to be normal. Checking with this website seems to show that this is not unknown those that observe birds on a regular basis. As I am an ornithologist educated at Cornell and I had an office in the Stuart K. Lyman Laboratory of Ornithology back in the late 1960s. Finally I have known Jim Fitzpatrick for a good number of years as we were heavily involved with The Raptor Research Foundation, Inc. Finally not knowing the email address I cannot attach these pics but is someone will send me an email address I will be happy to submit them.

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Richard, Please feel free to send your photos to if you wish.

Richard Clark says:

Thanks Holly,

Will do. (see attached separately)


Dick Clark

Carol Kraus says:

I have a cardinal that seems to have a growth on its head that is white. Could this be a mite? He does shake his head every now and then.

Lisa Drummond says:

We have cardinals that nest in the same bush every year. This winter, we noticed that the male seems to have one eye that is bulging, while the other eye seems normal, which we notice when he sits on a window feeder. He also doesn’t seem to notice us if the bulging eye is facing the window, but he does notice us and often flies away when the normal appearing eye is facing the window. I have photos. May I please send them for ideas or guidance?

Amy says:

I have a red cardinal that has looked like its seen better days. Its reappeared now with missing feathers on the back of its head/neck. Which now seems to be black…
Is he sick? Mites?

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