Cardinals have been a family favorite bird. In the northeastern U.S., they brighten up a winter landscape like no other.

UNWELCOME FINDING -- The cardinal has a large lump on his right shoulder.

This morning, our local cardinal and his mate were whooshing through the small pines at the back of the house. Himself decided to take a commanding spot in a leafless tree.

Grabbed the camera between fixing Sunday morning espresso and popovers and fired away through the kitchen window.

FROM BEHIND -- The hump was more visible when he turned north.

In unloading the shots to the laptop, noticed something alarming about the bird — he appears to have a hump of some sort on his right shoulder. At first it appeared that he was just balling up, as birds do, against the cold. But on closer examination, the hump is very distinct and stands out no matter how he carries himself. Fortunately, the growth doesn’t appear to impair his ability to fly or do other cardinal things.

On a somewhat lighter note, in going through the Peterson Field Guide to Birds, there was an interesting fellow included in the pages for “Cardinals, Buntings, and Allies,” called Pyrrhuloxia. What he looks like is a cardinal that’s gone through a bleach bath. It reminded me of a photo that colleague Donna shot back in the spring of 2010. Too grayish to be a female cardinal. What she did shoot appears to be this Pyrrhuloxia — quite a bit east of its normal range which appears to be SW Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, with the occasional wandering as far north as the Texas Panhandle.

Check out her photo.

One thought on “The humpbacked cardinal

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