14 Bird That Looks Like A Cardinal But Is Not - Happiestbeaks

Hammad Tariq

· 13 min read
14 Bird That Looks Like A Cardinal But Is Not

Ever spotted a bird resembling a cardinal but with subtle differences? Meet the Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus), often mistaken for its vibrant red cousin. While sharing the cardinal's robust build and crest, the Pyrrhuloxia sports a greyish body with reddish highlights and a distinctive yellow beak.

Found in arid regions of the southwestern United States and Mexico, this desert dweller thrives in scrublands and desert oases. Despite its similar appearance, the Pyrrhuloxia's unique features and habitat preferences set it apart, making it a fascinating subject for birdwatchers and enthusiasts alike.

14 Bird That Looks Like A Cardinal But is Not

Pyrrhuloxia

The Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) is a bird native to the arid regions of the southwestern United States and Mexico. With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, this species shares similarities with the Northern Cardinal but exhibits distinct features.

Sporting a greyish plumage with reddish accents and a stout yellow beak, the Pyrrhuloxia stands out in its desert habitat. These birds typically measure around 7 to 8 inches in length and weigh approximately 1.2 to 1.6 ounces.

Pyrrhuloxia are primarily seed eaters, feeding on a variety of desert plants, including mesquite, cactus fruits, and seeds. Their specialised beaks are adapted for cracking open tough seed shells, allowing them to access nutrient-rich food sources in their arid environment.

Vermilion Flycatcher

The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus obscurus) is often mistaken for a cardinal due to its vibrant red plumage, but it belongs to the flycatcher family. With a population estimated to be in the tens of thousands, this bird is native to the southwestern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. Measuring around 6 inches in length and weighing approximately 0.4 to 0.6 ounces, the Vermilion Flycatcher is smaller than the Northern Cardinal.

Vermilion Flycatchers primarily feed on insects, capturing prey in mid-air with agile aerial manoeuvres. Their scarlet plumage, especially prominent in males during the breeding season, serves as a visual signal for attracting mates and establishing territories.

Summer Tanager

The Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) presents a crimson appearance akin to the cardinal but belongs to the tanager family. With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, this bird inhabits woodlands, forests, and riparian areas across North and South America.

Adult males boast a vibrant red plumage, while females and juveniles exhibit a yellowish-green hue. Summer Tanagers measure approximately 6.3 to 7.5 inches in length and weigh around 0.8 to 1.1 ounces.

Cardinals, Summer Tanagers are primarily insectivores, feeding on a diverse array of insects, including beetles, bees, and wasps. Their foraging behaviour involves gleaning insects from foliage and catching flying prey in mid-air.

Western Tanager

The Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) shares the cardinal's crimson hue but belongs to the tanager family. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird inhabits coniferous forests, mountainous regions, and mixed woodlands across western North America.

Adult males showcase bright red plumage on their heads, throats, and underparts, contrasting with yellow wings and a black back. Females and juveniles display a more subdued yellow-green coloration. Western Tanagers measure approximately 6.3 to 7.5 inches in length and weigh around 0.8 to 1.1 ounces.

Western Tanagers are primarily insectivorous, feasting on a variety of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, and spiders. Their foraging behaviour involves gleaning insects from foliage and catching flying prey in mid-air.

Black-headed Grosbeak

The Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) shares the cardinal's vibrant red plumage but belongs to the cardinal family. With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, this bird inhabits forests, woodlands, and riparian areas across western North America, particularly during the breeding season.

Adult males boast striking red plumage on their underparts and a contrasting black head, while females exhibit a more subdued olive-brown coloration. Black-headed Grosbeaks measure approximately 6.3 to 7.5 inches in length and weigh around 0.8 to 1.1 ounces.

Black-headed Grosbeaks are primarily seed eaters, feeding on a variety of seeds, nuts, and fruits, including sunflower seeds and berries. Their powerful beaks are adapted for cracking open tough seed shells, allowing them to access nutrient-rich food sources in their habitat.

Dickcissel

The Dickcissel (Spiza americana) bears resemblance to the cardinal but belongs to the family Cardinalidae. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird inhabits grasslands, prairies, and agricultural fields across North and Central America during the breeding season.

Adult males display distinctive black throat patches and yellow underparts, while females and juveniles exhibit a more subdued coloration. Dickcissels measure approximately 5.5 to 6.3 inches in length and weigh around 0.6 to 0.9 ounces.

Dickcissels are primarily seed eaters, consuming a variety of grass seeds, grains, and weed seeds. Their foraging behaviour involves ground feeding and perching on grass stalks to access food sources.

Red-crested Cardinal

The Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata) shares the cardinal's red plumage but belongs to the family Thraupidae. With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, this bird inhabits South American countries like Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, particularly in subtropical and tropical regions.

Adult males display vibrant red plumage on their heads, crests, and breasts, while females exhibit a more subdued coloration. Red-crested Cardinals measure approximately 7 to 8 inches in length and weigh around 1 to 1.5 ounces.

Red-crested Cardinals primarily feed on seeds, fruits, and insects, foraging on the ground and in shrubs for their meals. Their varied diet and foraging behavior contribute to their ecological roles as seed dispersers and insect controllers within their habitats.

Scarlet Tanager

The Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) stands out with its vibrant red plumage, though it belongs to the tanager family. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird primarily inhabits deciduous forests across North and South America during the breeding season.

Adult males boast striking scarlet plumage on their bodies, contrasting with black wings and tail, while females and juveniles display a more subdued olive-green coloration. Scarlet Tanagers measure approximately 6.3 to 7.5 inches in length and weigh around 0.8 to 1.1 ounces.

Red-whiskered Bulbul

The Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) displays hues reminiscent of a cardinal but belongs to the bulbul family. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird is native to subtropical and tropical regions of Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.

Red-whiskered Bulbuls feature distinctive red patches behind their eyes, contrasting with brownish-grey plumage, while juveniles exhibit a more subdued coloration. Red-whiskered Bulbuls measure approximately 7 to 8 inches in length and weigh around 1 to 1.5 ounces.

Red-whiskered Bulbuls are primarily frugivorous, consuming a variety of fruits, berries, and nectar, supplementing their diet with insects and small invertebrates.

Red-billed Firefinch

The Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala) boasts cardinal-like shades but belongs to the estrildid finch family. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird is distributed across sub-Saharan Africa.

Males showcase vibrant red plumage on their faces, throats, and upperparts, while females exhibit a more subdued coloration. Red-billed Firefinches are petite, measuring around 4 to 4.7 inches in length and weighing approximately 0.3 to 0.4 ounces.

Red-billed Firefinches primarily feed on seeds, grains, and small insects, foraging on the ground and in shrubs. Their specialised beaks allow them to crack open seeds with precision, contributing to their dietary versatility.

Common Myna

The Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) bears a resemblance to the cardinal but belongs to the starling family. With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, this bird is native to South Asia but has spread to other parts of the world, including Australia and the United States.

Common Mynas exhibit dark brown plumage with a yellow bill, legs, and eye patches, while juveniles have a more subdued coloration. Common Mynas measure approximately 9 to 10 inches in length and weigh around 3.5 to 4.5 ounces.

Common Mynas are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of foods, including fruits, insects, and human scraps. Their adaptability to urban environments has contributed to their successful establishment in new territories.

Crimson Rosella

The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) mirrors the cardinal's vibrant hues but belongs to the parrot family. With a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, this bird is native to Australia and is known for its striking crimson and blue plumage.

Crimson Rosellas display a mix of crimson red and blue feathers, with variations across subspecies, while juveniles have a more subdued greenish coloration. Crimson Rosellas measure approximately 12 to 14 inches in length and weigh around 5.3 to 7.1 ounces.

Crimson Rosellas are primarily herbivores, feeding on a varied diet of seeds, fruits, nectar, and blossoms. Their specialised bills allow them to crack open tough seed shells and access nectar from flowers.

Common Rosefinch

The Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus) shares the cardinal's vibrant red plumage but belongs to the finch family. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird breeds across northern Eurasia, including Europe and Asia.

Adult males boast striking crimson plumage on their heads, breasts, and throats, while females exhibit a more subdued brownish-gray coloration. Common Rosefinches measure approximately 5.5 to 6.7 inches in length and weigh around 0.5 to 0.8 ounces. Common Rosefinches are primarily seed eaters, consuming a variety of seeds, grains, and berries.

Northern Oriole

The Northern Oriole (Icterus galbula) shares the cardinal's vibrant hues but belongs to the blackbird family. With a population estimated to be in the millions, this bird breeds across North America, particularly in deciduous forests and woodland edges.

Males showcase bright orange plumage on their underparts, with black wings and tail, while females exhibit a more subdued yellowish-green coloration. Northern Orioles measure approximately 7 to 8 inches in length and weigh around 1 to 1.5 ounces.

Northern Orioles are primarily insectivorous, feasting on a variety of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. Their foraging behaviour involves gleaning insects from foliage and catching flying prey in mid-air.

Summary

While various birds exhibit colours reminiscent of cardinals, their ecological roles and habitats differ significantly. Species like the Red-billed Firefinch and the Scarlet Tanager boast vibrant red plumage but belong to different families and inhabit diverse regions worldwide.

The Common Myna and the Crimson Rosella, though visually similar to cardinals, have distinct dietary preferences and ecological impacts in their respective habitats. Understanding these distinctions is vital for appreciating the biodiversity of avian species and implementing effective conservation measures to preserve their populations and habitats for future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a red bird and a cardinal the same?

The term "red bird" is often used interchangeably with "cardinal," but not all red birds are cardinals. While cardinals are known for their vibrant red plumage, other species like the Summer Tanager and the Scarlet Tanager also exhibit similar hues.


What looks like a cardinal but not red?

Birds that resemble cardinals but lack their signature red plumage include species like the Pyrrhuloxia and the Vermilion Flycatcher. These birds display similar body shapes and markings but feature different colorations, such as grey and orange.


Bird that looks like a cardinal but is yellow

The Summer Tanager and the Western Tanager are examples of birds resembling cardinals but displaying yellow plumage instead of red. These species share similar body shapes and behaviours with cardinals but feature distinct yellow coloration.


About Hammad Tariq

Hammad Tariq, the passionate founder and author of HappiestBeaks, is a dedicated bird enthusiast, caretaker, and lover. With a deep-seated affection for avian companions, he channels his expertise into crafting insightful and informative blogs on bird care and behavior.