OUTDOORS: Winter cardinals | Sports activities

There are two types of cardinals: the cardinals in spring, summer and fall – and they are beautiful – and there are cardinals in winter – and they are spectacular.

I had four winter cardinals in my garden during the last blizzard. Of the dozen of birds on my various bird feeders, the winter cardinals simply shone with beauty. The contrast between the cardinal red feathers and the fresh white snow was breathtaking. I was fascinated and for a few minutes I watched in admiration as the beautiful red birds moved gracefully against the background of the snow. The female cardinals are nice too, but nowhere near as impressive as their pals.

Apparently there is another type of winter cardinal – an albino, but the cardinal in the picture is not an albino because albino birds and animals are completely pigment-free. They are all white.

The bird in the photo is leukistic, a genetic mutation. Leukism causes partial loss of pigment in a bird or animal, such as a piebald deer, mostly but not entirely white. An albino bird, on the other hand, would have everything white. The bird pictured is a male as it has one or two red feathers on the crown (the females all have brown feathers on top). The cells that are responsible for producing melanin pigments haven’t quite done their job.

When such a man mates with an ordinary woman, the chances are that the babies are usually colored cardinals. Indeed, nature is the most interesting.

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