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Waterford, CT, United States
This unusual Northern Cardinal frequented the feeder during the month of August. It was a pitiful looking bird.
This Northern Cardinal had been visiting the feeder several times in August 2014.
This is fairly common among Cardinals when the weather gets really warm. They get some kind of mite that seems to prefer their head feathers. My guess is that they pass it to one another as their heads come in contact with feeder or tree surfaces. It only seems to thrive during the warmer part of the Summer here in Delaware. It apparently does not cause any debilitating illness and, as the weather cools, their feathers grow back. It is interesting to me in that it exposes their otherwise hidden dark skin color.
Hi Don and Susan, This is a common molting pattern for cardinals and jays – the birds often molt all of their head feathers at once, and re-grow those feathers shortly afterward. for more information, visit our webpage: https://feederwatch.org/learn/unusual-birds/#bald-headed-birds/
Hi Don and Susan: I am not an expert, but I have to report what I am observing. I have a cardinal visiting my feeder who looks exactly like the one in the photos above! I’ve tried to photograph my bird but he doesn’t stay long enough and is too active for me to get a clear photo. I had named him Knucklehead Smiff after a ventriloquist’s dummy that I grew up watching on a kids show which was broadcast in the New York City in the 1960’s. I started feeling badly about that moniker, so I now refer to him as “Handsome Boy”.
I do not believe this is due to molting or a warm weather phenomenon. I’ve been observing my cardinal for months now, starting in late winter/early spring this year. (I live in Vestal, New York). His head has looked the same the entire time. He appears to be healthy and he has a mate who arrives with him. She looks like a normal, healthy female cardinal. I’ve seen him feeding her (or maybe it was a baby?).
A birder who lives over two miles from me believes she has the same bird coming to her feeder. She told me she saw him last year as well and was glad to see he was still around. I wasn’t feeding the birds last summer. This is the first I have noticed him. I will be sure to keep tabs on him as I intend to keep my feed out all year.
Is it possible that a cardinal would have a feeding range of over two miles? (I am in a suburban area bordering woods as well as open country). Or, are we seeing a different bird with a similar condition?
Starting to see them down in Austin. I’ve built a feeder that will tweet out pictures as the birds come to eat. Seeing several of these bald cardinals. See pics here: https://www.facebook.com/feedntweet/ or on twitter @feedntweet.
I have the same exact situation here (Virginia Beach) as Elaine Benjamin – “… his head has looked the same (bold) the entire time. He appears to be healthy and he has a mate who arrives with him. She looks like a normal, healthy female cardinal. I’ve seen him feeding her…” The male seems healthy otherwise, as do the female. There are other healthy-looking cardinals coming to feed as well. Anna
Just saw one on my peach tree in NY, mid Aug 2019. It totally freaked me out, Zombie bird everybody run!
Found this thread on a Web search. Glad to hear the mites don’t hurt the birds.
A good shot of one early this morning —
Is this still a male cardinal?
We have them here in southern Virginia. Male and female this year whereas last year it was only the males.
Got one out here in South Bend, IN. Thought it was emulating the CA Condor!
This looks like my friend Baldy in my neighborhood! He’s got a lovely sweet lady friend and I love to see them arrive together.
Nashville, TN y’all
Susan says: I have the same family of Cardinals every year at this same time, this year the male is moulting & at first I was so worried about him &I then my friend who is a birder saw him, she said ” he’s not sick, he’s moulting”. I was happy! Also along comes this beautiful young female & he’s feeding her, beak to beak! …..lol…. I guess they are mating?! So I now have the 2 that are mating, & another older female. He looks just like the picture! I really enjoy them, Susan
Same thing up here in southern Vermont with cardinals and blue jays looking like miniature turkey vultures .
I thought they might be molting but if it could be mites, should I put out anything else out like a dust bath thing we use for chickens?
And by the way, anyone knows if male cardinals feed their babies? Earlier in the summer , a baby cardinal kept following and “begging” for food around the feeder. The male cardinal seemed to get frustrated and would “snap” or “attack” at it. I’ve never seen females do this. I’m not sure where mama was, or may be this was big brother having to babysit. ?
Hi Kate, Fledglings may be fed by both Northern Cardinal parents, but once the female goes off to renest, the male will feed all young until her next brood hatches.
Yes, hello, so last evening on April 21, 2020, that same kind of looking Cardinal landed in our feeder. He seemed normal, but was freaky looking. We live in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. It is still very cold here, this year, so the loss of the feathers can’t be from heat. Is this a common site on the otherwise beautiful Cardinal?
Hi Donna, Bald-headedness is more common Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays than other feeder species. These two species are more likely to molt all of their head feathers at once, though occasionally bald-headedness can be due to other factors, such as mites. You can read more about this phenomenon on our website here.
I was able to capture a photo of a molting male cardinal on April 25, 2020. I live in Covington, LA. This is the first time I’ve seen this occur. He seemed healthy and was very active. I assume this is normal and doesn’t effect their health.
I have a bald female cardinal, no feathers on head for at least 6 months. Seems ok otherwise. Wondering why. Too long to be normal molt. Danville Va
Hi Lin, Please check out this article on our Unusual Birds page for more information on bald-headed birds.
We’ve seen a cardinal at our feeders in the same condition. Glad it seems to be a normal situation. We live outside Tallahassee FL
We have had a bald cardinal at our feeder for a couple of weeks here in Springfield, VA.
We have one that has returned to us Chattanooga TN. Strange new world!
I have this same bird and I am in East Texss.
We, also in Tallahassee area, have one this year. I have seen one every few years but not every year. We seem to have the same couples here year round. Have not seen the bald one with a mate. I do not see a bald one during the winter. Funky looking. Glad to read it does not harm them.
I also have a bald cardinal coming alone to my feeder in Greenville, South Carolina.
We have a bald male and feathered female pair here in Fairfield, OH…my neighbor an I call him Carl…I noticed him several months ago.
I have a bald female that’s started coming to my feeder over the past few days out here in Columbus, Ohio.
Living in East Tennessee, we have a bald female frequenting our feeder since a few days. We alway have a lot of cardinals feeding, but this is the first time we have seen a bald cardinal.
Hi Hildegard, Baldness is most commonly seen in Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays – feel free to read more about this condition here.
We live in MA, near Plymouth. Currently we have two male cardinals that are loosing feathers on their heads. A few years ago there was a male cardinal coming to the feeder who was completely bald around his head. I was concerned, and am hopeful it is due to molting rather than mites.
Hello everyone! Just wanted to drop a few lines about my black-headed balding cardinal. I’ve named him Harvey, just seemed to fit for one reason or another. My husband and I have fed the birds on our back deck for just the past 2 years, and while we have a one-legged male cardinal that visits, we too have a bald black-headed male cardinal also. With all that said, I do not observe Harvey with a female unfortunately, but he does appear very healthy. He stops by several times a day and enjoys a variety of nuts etc. I am very interested in the “whys” or possible suggestions from other bird lovers regarding foods they enjoy or tips on feeders etc. Happy 4th of July to everyone!!!!!
Hello, You can use our Common Feeder Birds tool to view the kinds of foods and feeder types that most common feeder birds prefer, including Northern Cardinals. Click on the species photo to see its preferences. You can also view more information here on why birds can be ‘bald’. As for the one-legged cardinal, it likely had a run-in with a predator, though there are other possible culprits as well (genetics, getting stuck, etc.)
Saw one here for the first time, in South Salem NY (Westchester county above NYC). Gave me quite a scare, glad to see it is not uncommon. Looked like Skeletor.
Texas (Plano) is very hard on the very few songbirds we have. Owls, hawks, coyotes and bobcats, along with summer temperatures over 100 degrees lately —all take a toll. Even so, I was shocked at seeing the poor sickly-looking bald bird that looked more orange than red. I’ve seen hundreds of cardinals in past, more hospitable areas — but this is my first. I’m so glad it’s not a serious condition, and hope it is prompted by molting and not mites! He is enjoying the bird bath immensely.
We have had one all spring here in the city of Fairfax, VA. I am so happy to know that he is not just some natural oddity. He doesn’t seem to be embarrassed by it but he is always solo and never sings. 🙁
So the female is bald. And now her male has a patch on him that is starting to loose feathers. I’m concerned where they got this possible “mite” and is there something I do in my yard to make it happen?
Excellent treatise on the topic.
Hi. I am in Raleigh,NC and have a cardinal that looks the exact same. I did an internet search to try to find some answers and found this site. Thanks for the great resource and info! I am so glad to know that they can recover and that it isn’t more serious. He seems like a very active, normal cardinal.
Thank you for providing this info. Mites! I have a male cardinal that looks like the photo up above and could not figure out what was wrong with him. He has been visiting our feeders with his mate and offspring. Out of all the birds that visit our feeders, the cardinals are my absolute favorite. (We live in Natick, MA, about 12 miles directly west of Boston).
I first noticed my bald guys (they remind me of vultures) last year, and havent noticed any females with the same pattern. We’re in Providence, RI and, yes, he looks like the totally bald photos posted. Glad they have black skin so they wont get sunburned!
We are in Cranston, RI with a bald cardinal who frequently dines at our bird feeder. Today, for the first time, we saw him with a female cardinal. She looked normal, other than her brownish beak. Glad to see that he has a mate and is loved unconditionally. Wish people were more like that. 🙂
I have one 30 minutes. North of New Orleans . I’m not understanding if it’s a species or a mite condition.
I saw a bald cardinal today too. Kansas City, Kansas.
We have a female cardinal at our feeder every day with the same condition, Charlottesville VA. We have had 35 consecutive days of over 90 degree weather, so I am assuming the extreme heat is related to this phenomenon.
I have a bald male cardinal feeding regularly. It has been very hot here in Winter Springs Florida! Glad to know it’s not due to illness!
I also have a poor male cardinal who is completely bald and is itching horribly. Leads me to believe mites. I have treated the squirrels we feed for mites and hair loss. Is there anyway to treat our feathered friend as well? We are in eastern Nebraska. Hate to see him like this come winter.
Hi Doreen, Please contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. Handling, possessing, or treating wild birds requires federal permits.
I have a Carolina Cardinal that has been in my backyard for over two to three years the last two years he have lost all the feathers on his head and have not grown back can anyone help me to have my bird
Hi David, Cardinals commonly lose the feathers on their head when undergoing an abnormal molt, but in those cases the feathers generally grow back within a few weeks. if the “baldness” is lasting longer, especially over years, the cardinal may have lice, mites, or some kind of environmental or nutritional factor could be the culprit. You can read more about baldness in birds here. There’s not much that can be done in this case, other than making sure your feeders are regularly cleaned.
I have a cardinal who looks just like this. I call him Cardinal Cardinal because he kind of looks like he’s straight out of a monastery. Here is my wonder. I have had a cardinal outside my spare bedroom window forever—standing in a bush, bashing into the window, presumably to attack his reflection. I could never get a good look at him. I recently converted the bedroom into a study and I am in there all the time now and the reflection/movement/light in the space has changed. At the same time the cardinal stopped bashing and Cardinal Cardinal appeared, calm, in the bush outside the window. Could the bashing of the head have anything to do with losing feathers?
Hi Rachelle, Birds often attack their reflections in mirrors, windows, and other similar structures, especially during breeding season. They see their own reflection and believe it’s another of their species, and so attempt to scare that individual away from their territory. Please feel free to read this article for more information and tips on how to help prevent this behavior.
I’ve seen the same thing with our Northern Cardinals here in Roanoke, Virginia. They’ve been bald since late winter, early spring. I’m glad I found this thread, I was worried it was something that would harm them. It seems like their song is different also. It’s a descending “here here” then a flat “right right right right” then another descending “here here”.
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