Our new friend is a bit of a celebrity! A yellow male Northern Cardinal has been spotted nearby and lots of bird fans have been flocking to see him. He’s been seen a number of times in the Natural Area Teaching Laboratory (NATL) here on UF campus nearby the Museum.

We checked with our ornithologist Andy Kratter who said that it’s likely that this cardinal is yellow instead of red due to a mutation in how the red pigments are created. Andy added. “All carotenoids come from the foods that the birds eat, but every once in a while, a rare one-in-a-million mutation pops up in a male cardinal that creates a hiccup in the process that turns the carotenoids into yellow instead of red.”

In several other bird species with red or yellow plumage—Cedar Waxwings, House Finches, Flamingoes—changes in diet lead to aberrant orange, yellow, or pale plumages. For instance, in Cedar Waxwings, the normally yellow tail tip is orange if they feed on certain exotic species of honeysuckle when they are molting.

If you do visit the neighborhood to catch a picture of our friend, please be sure to stay on all of the clearly marked trails and walkways for your safety and the safety of our local habitats. Happy bird-spotting!


Florida Bird Sounds

Florida Museum Ornithology Collection

Audubon Field Guide: Northern Cardinal

Audubon.org: Why Is This Northern Cardinal Yellow?

Audubon.org: Rare-Bird Sightings: Share or Shut Up?